Friday, May 24, 2013

Cold-Loving Bacteria Offer Clues for Life on Mars

Ellesmere Island, Canada, is home to cold-loving bacteria that live in permafrost.


A microbe discovered in the Canadian high Arctic thrives at the coldest temperature known for bacterial growth.

Researchers found the newly discovered bacterium, Planococcus halocryophilus OR1, in permafrost — permanently frozen ground — on Ellesmere Island. The organism thrives at 5 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 15 degrees Celsius), and holds clues to adaptations that might be necessary for life on Mars or Saturn's moon Enceladus, where temperatures are well below freezing.

The microbe lives inside veins of salty water, and can survive because the salt prevents the water in the veins from freezing, study leader Lyle Whyte of McGill University in Montreal said in a statement. The bacterium can remain active and breathing at temperatures down to at least minus 13 degrees F (minus 25 degrees C) in permafrost, Whyte said.

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