Does This Strange Canadian Water Hold Alien Life?

Posted: Oct 31 2016, 6:52pm CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Does This Strange Canadian Water Hold Alien Life?
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Researchers have found evidence that the oldest water in the world, which is deep below ground in northern Ontario, could have microbial life that is "alien" to life on the surface. The water was first discovered in 2013 and is about 2.4 km in a mine. It is estimated that it hasn't had contact with the surface for 2.64 billion years, which is about half as long as earth has been around.

Researchers found that the water is its own ecosystem, which means that there has been evolution there that isn't seen on earth, mostly because it has happened without sunlight and atmospheric oxygen.

They have also found evidence that there is unidentified microbial life, but we can't know that for sure.

We do know that these communities have been evolving deep under the earth's surface. There are also hints that this could be happening on Mars as well.

"This continues to open up our idea of how much of this planet is habitable," Barbara Sherwood Lollar, one of the researchers from the University of Toronto, told Ivan Semeniuk from The Globe and Mail. "And it speaks to the habitability of Mars as well."

There has been similar research into water found in South Africa, but the water in Canada has been isolated for 10 times longer.

The key is whether or not the water contains sulphur. It would require that for bacteria to source electrons so that that can breath and eliminate waste.

It was already clear from other studies that there was enough hydrogen, but the question was about sulphate. As it turns out, there was. The sulphur came from the surrounding rocks and is broken down by the rocks' natural radioactivity.

Regardless of whether or not life exists here, it can give us an insight into whether life might exist on other planets.

"The thing that’s special is that the sulphate is being generated by radioactive decay," Alex Sessions, a geobiologist at the California Institute of Technology, who wasn't involved in the study, told The Globe and Mail. "That’s huge."

"Because this is a fairly common geological setting in early Earth as well as modern Mars, we think that as long as the right minerals and water are present, likely kilometres below the surface, they can produce the necessary energy source to support the microbes. I’m not saying that these microbes definitively exist, but the conditions are right to support microbial life on Mars."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/46" rel="author">Noel Diem</a>
Noel passion is to write about geek culture.




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