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#1 2020-05-22 16:43:59

From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Plant discovered on Mars? (Is the question mark even necessary?)

I normally reference Joe White's videos on the Real Mars thread, which is something of a ghetto for discussion of possible life on Mars (present or past).  However I think this video really deserve a separate thread (even though I have already mentioned it on the Real Mars thread):

Looks like Joe might have discovered a genuine plant on Mars - analogous to a type of cactus, possibly.

It's particularly interesting because we have not just something that could be a plant (growing up directly out of the soil, thin and perpendicular fashion, like many cacti on Earth) but there are four other crucial pieces of evidence:

1. Close to the plant we see what looks like an exposed root system.

2. The root system is by an area of damp sand.

3.  The damp sand is just where you would expect melted frost water to drip down from the higher level sedimentary rock layer.

4.  One of the roots is embedded in the damp sand, suggesting it is drawing out water (and, presumably,  nutrients).

So this is not just a video of something that looks like a plant. It is a video that can go a long way to explaining how a plant might survive on Mars:

There could be extensive plant root systems spread over a wide area where statistically it is likely that melt water will be formed (from frost on exposed flat sedimentary rock layers).  When areas of damp sand occur (probably in the summer period, maybe over say 100 sols out of the Mars year), the root system draws up water.  The water entering the plant system is then able to germinate seeds (or trigger some similar process) so that a cactus-like plant shoots up from beneath the surface sand.  Presumably this plant has some vital reproductive system e.g. the production of tiny seeds that can be blown on the winds of Mars.  The "knobbly" parts of the plant in the video might well be seed pods that burst open when conditions are right e.g. when the wind blows relatively strongly. Seeds that land by chance in areas of damp sand may then be able to start forming new root systems and so the process continues.

This is absolutely fascinating. The fact that NASA can publish such an image and make no comment about its extraordinary content is perhaps an apt comment on the dilapidated state of the organisation.

Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars


#2 2020-05-22 17:50:35

Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 4,672

Re: Plant discovered on Mars? (Is the question mark even necessary?)


I will be very surprised, if you get much support in your assertions.  However, conditionally, I feel I do have limited support to offer.
A life form would need an energy source, water, and nutrients at the minimum, I presume.

While light is a possibility, for Mars, it is complicated with U.V.  Over billions of years of adaptation could plants tolerate U.V?  Well, maybe to a degree.  I have read that plants capturing visible light is like them catching bullets.  U.V. would be even harder.

So, I am inclined to think that fungi would be the most reasonable life form that Mars and the Earth could have supported, before a Oxygen atmosphere on either planet.

With a CO2 dominated atmosphere each planet could support such life through photolysis.

I will try to offer some supporting links for that proposal of possibility. … e-to-land/ … n-air.html

Talk about an extreme diet. Antarctic microbes are capable of surviving on air, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.
Soil microbes that live in polar deserts must contend with extremely dry conditions, nutrient-poor dirt and 24-hour darkness for half the year. Now, a genetic study of some of these microscopic survivors reveals that they pull it off by gleaning trace gases right out of thin air.

"This new understanding about how life can still exist in physically extreme and nutrient-starved environments like Antarctica opens up the possibility of atmospheric gases supporting life on other planets," study leader Belinda Ferrari, a microbiologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said in a statement.
Life on the outer limit
The researchers collected soil microbes from two regions in eastern Antarctica, both of which are ice-free and devoid of vegetation. The soil is also very low in vital nutrients like carbon and nitrogen. The first sample area was a spot called Robinson Ridge in Wilkes Land. The second was a desolate stretch called Adams Flat in Princess Elizabeth Land.

The team was able to scan the genomes of 23 separate microbes, including two bacterial groups never before described by science, dubbed WPS-2 and AD3. The most dominant microbes, the scientists found, were also those with the genes that leant them air-scrubbing abilities. [Extreme Life on Earth: 8 Bizarre Species]
"They can get most of the energy and carbon they need by scavenging trace atmospheric gases, including hydrogen and carbon monoxide," Ferrari said. They can also pull carbon dioxide from the air, the researchers reported.
Slow living

This method of feeding on air may be prevalent throughout Antarctica, the researchers wrote, though they said more sampling is needed to find out whether that's the case. Microbes in other nutrient-poor spots, like the Atacama Desert in South America — the driest desert in the world — could use atmospheric gases to survive, too, the researchers wrote.

Bacteria have been known to survive on carbon monoxide and hydrogen alone, Don Cowan and Thulani Makhalanyane of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, wrote in a News and Views article accompanying Ferrari's paper. Usually, microbes live like this in oxygen-free environments like the sediments in the deep sea, but some bacteria, like Geobacter sulfurreducens, are known to pull carbon monoxide from the air as their energy source, added Cowan and Makhalanyane, who weren't involved in the original study.

The Antarctic bacteria spend most of the year dormant, Cowan and Makhalanyane noted, actively eating, growing and reproducing for likely only a few hundred hours annually. That means life moves at a slow pace for these organisms, the authors wrote. But the find is still exciting, Cowan and Makhalanyane added, especially for astrobiologists.
"It adds another dimension to our understanding of the survival and energy-sufficiency mechanisms of organisms living in places at the limits of where life is thought to be possible," the authors wrote.
Original article on Live Science.

So, my thinking about early life on the Earth and maybe Mars land is that the shoreline of oceans might have had a lot of organic matter for fungi to feed on, and eventually they might have adapted to feed on CO, and maybe Hydrogen and trace Oxygen.

Complex Fungi could perhaps live mostly underground, and as today, perhaps have protected Mushrooms, as reproductive organs.

It can be understood that in Antarctica, some Lichen can grow at subzero temperatures, and also absorb water from the atmosphere.  It would not be necessary for a "Plant" on Mars to have roots.  But some parts of a fungi could be like roots and extract nutrients from the regolith.

However, I have reasoned how tolerably "Fresh" water could emerge from a freeze/thaw cycle as in the Arctic ice pack.

I feel that I will not go much further, other than to mention that if there was Fungi on Mars, it would have had billions of years to adapt, if adaptation were at all possible.

I will also say that I have been informed long ago that the British are notorious pranksters.



Last edited by Void (2020-05-22 18:29:47)



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