Earthworms are thriving on the Martian soil (ish)


A Dutch scientist found two baby worms writhing on the ground that is supposed to replicate the surface of Mars. But we are still quite far from gardening on the red planet.

For now, scientists do not have access to the true Martian soil. So Wieger Wamelink, a biologist at Wageningen University, bought a NASA simulation at a hefty $ 2,500 value for about 220 pounds (he created a crowdfunding campaign to help with costs). The US space agency UU He picked up that land from a volcano in Hawaii and the Mojave Desert, and then sterilized it to copy the lifeless Martian environment. Wamelink and his research team then placed the simulation floor in a Martian colony setting. They were enthusiastic when they added adult worms that not only survived, but reproduced. "That was way beyond what we expected," says Wamelink.

The discovery that earthworms could survive on the red planet would be exciting. These underestimated annelids are crucial to a healthy ecosystem on Earth. They are living supercomponents, eat dead plants and poop a productive soil. If human colonies could breed them, their crops would have better results.

But Matt Damon's process of re-creating a beached stage is not entirely scientific at the moment. After receiving the soil from NASA in 2013, Wamelink planted a variety of seeds. To their delight, they grew tomatoes, wheat, watercress, field mustard and a wild plant called cat's grape. He checked that batch of heavy metals, but put an approximately equal amount of plants on the ground to mimic what would have happened without human intervention. After that first year, he began to put the real plants back on the ground, but he also added pig mud as a substitute for human feces.

Future Martians probably would not do this, according to Andrew Palmer, a professor of biology at the Florida Institute of Technology. "It is very unlikely that we will put stools in agriculture of any kind on the ground," he says. "Human feces are a horrible vector for disease, and I do not know how many pigs there will be on Mars."

But the dangers of the spread of human fetal diarrhea, typhoid fever, cholera, polio and hepatitis do not compare to perchlorinate, which the Phoenix Mars Lander found on Martian soil in 2007. This compound, which humans sometimes put in propellants and containers, affects the thyroid and lungs. The Martians would need to get rid of this substance before planting anything on the ground, and other space missions that collect larger soil samples can bring news of less than delicious substances.

No soil on Earth is a perfect replica of Martian Things And like the earth on our own planet, it is not uniform. Just as the white sand of the Amazon River basin is completely different from limestone rich in Spain, Mars has a variable geology, and probably a corresponding diversity of land that humans have not begun to explore. And all the earth on Earth has had some kind of life stumbling on it at some point, even in relatively arid areas where NASA picks up the simulation floor of Mars. Plants can use the chemical remains of this past life to grow more easily. "There will be traces of organic matter," says Palmer. "That footprint is going to be different on Mars."

Scientists only have elemental badyzes on a limited amount of Martian soil. Palmer says he hopes to one day have a molecular badysis of the dirt from different areas of Mars, perhaps collected by humans. He says research that estimates how much food humans can grow on Mars is crucial to creating preliminary budgets for future manned missions. So, although these experiments with worms are not enough to show that we can live off the earth, they are still important. "We are improving," he says. "You start imperfect and refine and refine and refine"

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