Life on Mars? – McGill University Researchers Offer Clues

marsA bacterium could now offer what could be the biggest insight yet as to what happened to life on Mars and if life on Mars actually exists. Temperature on the Ellesmere Island in the Canadian high Arctic is nearly similar to the temperatue on Mars.

And discovering a bacteria at that temperature possibly means that life could thrive on Mars too. A McGrill University led team of scientists recently found the bacterium that could be alive even at temperatures fifteen degree below Celsius – that is now possibly the coldest temperature ever seen where bacteria could still thrive.

Discovering the bacteria has offered some clues as to the necessary pre conditions for microbial life – on both the Mars and the Saturn moon Enceladus – as both planetary bodies have similar sub zero conditions.

The researchers, Prof. Lyle Whyte and postdoctoral fellow Nadia Mykytczuk from the Dept. of Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University, discovered the bacterium named as Planococcus halocryophilus OR1. The bacterium was screened out from over 200 others, in a search to find out which was the best microbe to adapt to the changing and harsh Arctic conditions.

According to the researcher, the bacterium has the ability to adapt to extremely cold and salty conditions. This happens because of the modifications in the cell structure of the bacterium as well as, according to McGill, “increased amounts of cold adapted proteins”. The changes that envelop the cell membrane of the bacterium ensure that it is protected “from the hostile environment” in which it lives in, according to the McGill study.