back to article Martian microbes may just be resting – boffins

Demonstrating that scientists can extrapolate with the best of them, researchers have speculated that long dormant microbes on the Red Planet might reawaken with the introduction of liquid water. The Washington State University team, led by astrobiology boffin-in-chief, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, found that microbes lurking in the …

  1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

    Don't Drink The water

    "Don't drink the water, don't even touch it, not one drop"

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Don't Drink The water

      That is from "Rendezvous with Rama", right?

    2. Alistair

      Re: Don't Drink The water

      @ Oncoming Scorn

      For that reference I raise you a Tom Lehrer reference

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Don't Drink The water

        Dr Who. Waters of Mars. Jeesh!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've always wondered...

    why they never had something like agar plates on board a lander to see if anything would grow on them.

    1. annodomini2

      Re: I've always wondered...

      Contamination, is the stuff growing on them from earth or mars.

  3. Clod

    "Just resting"

    Nah they're just pinin' for the fjords, innit?

    Mine's the one with the Norwegian Blue in the pocket.

    1. Swarthy


      These microbes wouldn't foom if you put five million volts through 'em!

      1. Tomato42

        Re: FOOM?

        "voom", surely...

        1. handleoclast

          Re: FOOM?

          "voom", surely...

          Welsh spelling.

          Welsh "f" = English "v." Welsh "ff" = English "f." Welsh "dd" = voiced English "th" (as in "this," not as in "thing"). Welsh "ll" = something unpronounceable.

    2. John Savard

      Re: "Just resting"

      If you hadn't said it, I would have. That is what I thought of immediately...

  4. JassMan

    There may be more than than just microbes

    Even on earth we have have animals such as Bdelloid Rotifers and Caenorhabditis Elegans which can stand desiccation so why not Mars? I think there are a number of fungal and algal spores which are also viable for growth after dehydration/rehydration. Just because the number of known biological entities on earth capable of this trick is quite low, doesn't mean that there are no multicelluar lifeforms on Mars capable of reviving after being dried out.

    1. Scott Broukell

      Re: There may be more than than just microbes

      I'll drink to that . . . . . no, err wait! see icon >

    2. Ima Ballsy

      Re: There may be more than than just microbes

      Maybe Tardigrade's there too?

    3. oiseau

      Re: There may be more than than just microbes

      "There may be more than than just microbes"

      Hmmm ...

      May well be so.

      I saw a movie last year about us earthlings doing something similar:


      Setting aside some a number of incongruencies, it was rather scary.

      Not so much because of the possibilities of finding life in Mars but for how downright 'brillo pad dumb' the people in charge of the experiments were.

      I enthusiastically suppose that anything dug up and analysed will be done properly and far enough from earth so as not to fuck things up more than they already are.


  5. Aladdin Sane

    I don't see what the fuss is

    After all, it's a God-awful small affair.

  6. Paul Herber Silver badge

    just resting?

    These microbes are very small, those microbes are far away.

  7. FuzzyTheBear

    Marvin ?

    Instead of loosing time with speculative science , just trust well established science. In the 60's Marvin the Martian ( Bugs Bunny Show ) demonstrated how to grow Martians .. Just put a seed on the ground water it and there you have it .. Instant full grown martian. They had the right idea . They had the science and technique all worked out 50 years ago.

  8. TDahl

    Been there, done that

    "Until someone arrives on the surface of the red planet with a drill capable of going deeper than the rock botherers of rovers have managed so far, and a set of instruments to perform the analysis, the theory will have to remain informed speculation."

    Starting in 1976 Viking landers 1 and 2 used their surface sampler scoops and backhoe shovels to dig trenches a few inches deep in the Mars soil and collect previously-buried samples that were analyzed by the Viking Lander Biology Instrument onboard each of the two landers. Most scientists familiar with the analysis found the results inconclusive, though one of the principle investigators remains convinced that a clear signature of biological activity was detected. I'm a huge enthusiast in the Viking missions and recently created a video that describes the lander's surface sampler hardware in detail (including the trenching activity):

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: TDahl

      Cool, but the story's not wrong FYI.


      1. Alistair

        Re: TDahl


        I recall the "backhoe" attachments rather well considering how old I was when they left the surface of this miserable swamp, I also had a pretty good idea of the technology involved in the detectors. I for one agree that Viking found traces that are indicative of the possibility of biological life. The "trench" involved however was in no way deep enough (given what we know now about martian weather) to get below what we would call 'seasonal' soil depth. We need to go much deeper, and the 1.5M line is in reality a minimum.

  9. Robert Helpmann??

    Total Tautology

    ...absolutely terrible Val Kilmer vehicle...

    Bit redundant, yes?

    1. You aint sin me, roit

      Re: Total Tautology

      Aren't Matt Damon's faeces more appropriate?

      Mine's the one with the potatoes in the pocket...

  10. JLV

    How worried should we be, if it existed?

    We know that hosts subjected to microorganisms that they have no immunity to doesn't end well.

    But how's the flip side? Microorganisms infecting unfamiliar hosts? Cross species viruses jumps, like pig to humans, happen, but not often and that's with hosts whose DNA is very similar.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How worried should we be, if it existed?

      Not very I suspect. Anything on Mars won't have evolved using us as a substrate, on the other hand we are covered in bacteria that can metabolise all sorts of stuff.

      Martians probably like a bit of alkali metal sulfide with their hydrocarbon.

    2. Mark 85

      Re: How worried should we be, if it existed?

      Possible that things will go the other way and our microorganisms will kill off anything on Mars. Toss of the coin as to has the more badass microorganisms.

      1. JLV

        Re: How worried should we be, if it existed?

        Ours, if they've been napping for megayears.

        I seem to recall that there are strong autoclaving protocols for interplanetary missions, probably for this reason.

  11. Andy Mac

    “Those microbes were just *resting* in my account”

  12. TrumpSlurp the Troll


    Presumably there is the chance that any life on Earth and Mars shares the original system wide building blocks?

    Although the mass extinction of anaerobic life when the oxygen producers took over may skew this a bit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Panspermia?

      Probably not. DNA life seems to have evolved from RNA life (which is more resistant to environmental stress) and there have been discussions about what nucleic acid preceded RNA, with some possible candidates. If you think how successive media have arisen in the IT world as system complexity has increased, it's a good analogy.

      Therefore, any Martian life may use different nucleic acids. There is no reason to believe that the bases for either RNA or DNA need to be the exact same ones found on Earth, or even that there isn't an alternative to DNA that just didn't gain any traction here.

      This is assuming that panspermia happened when early life had a more robust, if simpler, data format. Just as a future civilisation would find it a lot easier to recover data from an 8 inch floppy than an SSD, it's more likely that an RNA precursor organism would survive space travel than one that's DNA based.

  13. x 7

    but why would the Martian Rock Snakes need water?

    (second Zero-X reference today...)

  14. Zwuramunga

    Some of the tests were positive.

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