Organisms that thrive in some of the most extreme environments on Earth could help humans colonize Mars and find traces of life in outer space.
Living in inhospitable conditions and low light, cyanobacteria are among the largest groups of bacteria on Earth. These organisms have existed for more than 2.5 billion years. Certain cyanobacteria exist in places such as Antarctica and the Mojave Desert. The harsh conditions where they live are similar to those found on Mars and other planets. By expanding our understanding of how these bacteria survive in extreme conditions, researchers will better understand extraterrestrial life. In fact, they can use them to colonize Mars because cyanobacteria produce oxygen and can create an atmosphere.
"This might sound like science fiction, but space agencies and private companies around the world are actively trying to make this aspiration a reality in the not too distant future," said Professor Elmars Krausz of the National University of Australia. (ANU).
"Organisms adapted to low light, such as the cyanobacteria we have been studying, can grow under rocks and potentially survive the harsh conditions on the red planet."
Cyanobacteria are single-celled organisms that absorb energy from light and produce oxygen. But they use a significantly different mechanism of photosynthesis. With this unusual form of photosynthesis, cyanobacteria could create air for humans to breathe on Mars
"Chlorophyll adapted to absorb visible light is very important in photosynthesis for most plants, but our research identifies chlorophylls red calls "as critical components in photosynthesis in low light conditions," said study co-author Jennifer Morton. "This work redefines the minimum energy needed in light to boost photosynthesis"