Fun Stuff

Bacteria aid search for extraterrestrial life

Crystalline salt pattern created by E. coli. Photo by J. M. Gómez-Gómez, courtesy of Science Daily.

Crystalline salt pattern created by E. coli. Photo by J. M. Gómez-Gómez, courtesy of Science Daily.

You’ve all heard of the bacteria E. coli, right? Well it turns out that a recent discovery about these microorganisms has given astrobiologists a clue for how to look for life in space.

It turns out that these bacteria build complex shelters with salt crystals that form when water evaporates. Discovered by Spanish researcher José María Gómez accidentally after leaving the bacteria in a droplet of salt water on a microscope, E. coli show remarkable ability to organize salt in order to protect themselves and hibernate when conditions get dry.

Space nerds everywhere are super excited about this result because now they know what kind of patterns to look for in order to detect signs of tiny life on other planets. 

Now YOU are ready for your first expedition to Mars. You’re welcome!

José María Gómez Gómez, Jesús Medina, David Hochberg, Eva Mateo-Martí, Jesús Martinez-Frias, Fernando Rull. Drying Bacterial Biosaline Patterns Capable of Vital Reanimation upon Rehydration: Novel Hibernating Biomineralogical Life FormationsAstrobiology, 2014; 140630120042004 DOI:10.1089/ast.2014.1162
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