Underground microbes may have swarmed ancient Mars, altering the atmosphere so profoundly that they triggered a Martian Ice Age and snuffed themselves out


Could Mars still be inhabited today by micro-organisms descending from this primitive biosphere? If so, where?

Underground microbes may have swarmed ancient Mars
Underground microbes may have swarmed ancient Mars. Maybe on the Jezero Crater area on Mars captured by the Mars reconnaissance Orbiter. Picture via NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS/AP

Ancient Mars may have had an environment capable of harboring an underground world teeming with microscopic organisms, a new research shows.

But if they existed, these simple life forms would have altered the atmosphere so profoundly that they triggered a Martian Ice Age and snuffed themselves out, the researchers concluded.

The findings provide a bleak view of the ways of the cosmos. Life — even simple life like microbes — “might actually commonly cause its own demise,” said the study’s lead author, Boris Sauterey, now a post-doctoral researcher at Sorbonne University. The results “are a bit gloomy, but I think they are also very stimulating. They challenge us to rethink the way a biosphere and its planet interact.

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In a study in the journal Nature Astronomy, Sauterey and his team said they used climate and terrain models to evaluate the habitability of the Martian crust some 4 billion years ago when the red planet was thought to be flush with water and much more hospitable than today.

They surmised that hydrogen-gobbling, methane-producing microbes might have flourished just beneath the surface back then, with several inches (a few tens of centimeters) of dirt, more than enough to protect them against harsh incoming radiation. Anywhere free of ice on Mars could have been swarming with these organisms, according to Sauterey, just as they did on early Earth.

Early Mars’ presumably moist, warm climate, however, would have been jeopardized by so much hydrogen sucked out of the thin, carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere, Sauterey said. As temperatures plunged by nearly minus-400 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-200 degrees Celsius), any organisms at or near the surface likely would have buried deeper in an attempt to survive.

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By contrast, microbes on Earth may have helped maintain temperate conditions, given the nitrogen-dominated atmosphere, the researchers said.

Pahlevan led a separate recent study suggesting Mars was born wet with warm oceans lasting millions of years. The atmosphere would have been dense and mostly hydrogen back then, serving as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas that eventually was transported to higher altitudes and lost to space, his team concluded.

The French study investigated the climate effects of possible microbes when Mars’ atmosphere was dominated by carbon dioxide and so is not applicable to the earlier times, Pahlevan said.

What their study makes clear, however, is that if (this) life were present on Mars” during this earlier period, “they would have had a major influence on the prevailing climate,” he added in an email.

The best places to look for traces of this past life? The French researchers suggest the unexplored Hellas Planita, or plain, and Jezero Crater on the northwestern edge of Isidis Planita, where NASA’s Perseverance rover currently is collecting rocks for return to Earth in a decade.

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Next on Sauterey’s to-do list: looking into the possibility that microbial life could still exist deep within Mars.

Could Mars still be inhabited today by micro-organisms descending from this primitive biosphere? he said. “If so, where?” [AP, Nature]

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  1. Try to convince people that they are destroying the climate by pushing that Mar’s climate was destroyed by organisms. “See, it happened before…” Man thinks he has so much power to control the environment, yet he does not. I don’t know why the prince of this world is pushing the climate agenda. Man did indirectly destroy the climate before the flood, although it wasn’t man’s power that did but rather his decisions. So it will be interesting to see what comes of this.

    • Hawkert,
      They push the Man controlling the climate as cover for natural events they want to keep hidden as long as possible. It also makes the Cabal appear more powerful than they are.

  2. Meh,

    Let’s get to those pyramids and sphinx structures. All we get is nazi-nasa horsecrap. Rob taxpayers, put out junk reports. Rinse and repeat!

    • They’re definitely not telling us the truth about Mars. It’s our money they spent, and not even the decency to tell us a little truth. All made up BS. Notice that Moon Rocket still hasn’t launched…………

      • Yep, and it bums me out. When I grew up, every kid wanted to be an astronaut. We all had our Estes model rockets and launched them on dirt lots. Getting them back was the hard part. It was fun though. My brother is getting his son into it now.

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