Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Life Form Discovered by NASA

Mark Twain once visited Mono Lake in California and lamented that it was a "lifeless" place.  He was very wrong.  NASA has discovered a new life form in that lake, and it changes everything:

NASA has discovered a totally new kind of life form, but it’s not an alien—it’s here on Earth. Astrobiologists have found a bacteria living in a poisonous California lake that’s actually partially made of arsenic, it announced in a much-hyped press conference today. Whereas every other organism ever observed is made up of six essential ingredients—carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur—this one seems to have replaced phosphorus with arsenic, the Washington Post explains.  That means the bacteria evolved from a different common ancestor than every other organism on the planet...[link]

The Times ran a story about this research back in March, but, until today, it didn't really get much notice.  It could have come from space.  It could be a form of life on earth we simply haven't seen before.  Since it appears to live in a poisonous lake, it's no surprise that we didn't see it sooner.  No matter what its origin, it has evolved differently than any other known creature.  This is a big discovery.

Lake Mono, California

It was found in a place called Lake Mono, which has a size of about 65 miles and dates back to the ice age (when it was a much larger lake).  And this new life form is not the first unusual animal found there - the Lake Mono Brine Shrimp are only found in this lake.  It's also filled with a high level of salt and is very calcium rich.  This leads to the formation of stalagmite-like outcroppings called tufa (below), and the salt/calcium mix in the lake makes an unusual coating that covers everything the water touches.  If there was ever a place to search for strange new life, it was certainly Lake Mono.

Tufa from Lake Mono

I doubt anything new will be revealed about this life form any time soon, but this is a big day for biology.  There is always so much that we don't know.

1 comment:

  1. i beleve nasa has discovered way more than that.but it's not like ther'e gonna share it with us,the humble pawns we are