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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Holes in rocks similar on Mars and Earth

A microscopic view into a thin slice of the Martian meteor Nakhla.
A microscopic view into a thin slice of the Martian meteor Nakhla.
Credit: Oregon State University
"Virtually all of the tunnel marks on Earth rocks that we have examined were the result of bacterial invasion," Martin Fisk, a professor of marine geology in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, said. "In every instance, we've been able to extract DNA from these Earth rocks, but we have not yet been able to do that with the Martian samples. "There are two possible explanations," he added. "One is that there is an abiotic way to create those tunnels in rock on Earth, and we just haven't found it yet. The second possibility is that the tunnels on Martian rocks are indeed biological in nature, but the conditions are such on Mars that the DNA was not preserved...It is commonly believed that water is a necessary ingredient for life, so if bacteria laid down the tunnels in the rock when the rock was wet, they may have died 600 million years ago. That may explain why we can't find DNA it is an organic compound that can break down."

The team has been studying the tunnels bacteria build for 15 years. Thay have found bacteria, and their tunnles, everywhere from regular rocks, to the ocean floor, to 4000 feet below Hawaii. This study was done on Nakhla, a metiorite of Martian origin which fell in Egypt in 1911.

(More info: Oregon State University)

- posted by Jim @ 11:56 EST