7 April 2010

Alien Life Found On Earth

Scientists in Italy have discovered what they believe to be the first life form on Earth to be able to live its entire life without oxygen.  Until now it was thought that every living thing needed to use oxygen in one way or another in order to survive.  However, in an anoxic pit in the Mediterannean the scientist have found tiny life forms that do not use oxygen in any way to metabolise.

The title of this post may be misleading in as much as the life form is very much terrestrial but it is the most alien that anyone has ever come across on this planet (my way of apologising for hyperbole I guess).  They are thought to belong to the Loriciferan family (example of the left) and have been living in the anoxic pit for possibly millions of years.
Anoxic is the term that refers to areas of water (either on the land masses or oceans) that are depleted of dissolved oxygen.  Most places that are like this are prevented from oxygenising by a barrier, usually physical.

The pit in which these creatures have been discovered is not a unique phenomenon and it therefore begs the question whether there are other species like this on the planet.  Not only that but it may indicate that we may find life elsewhere in the solar system that we thought could not sustain it.  Scientists have been looking at the amount of methane in the atmosphere of Mars and pondering whether or not this indicates the presence of micro-organisms deep below the surface (methane being a by-product of any process of metabolism).  Perhaps they do not need oxygen up there either?

Click HERE for the whole story.

Image credit Wikimedia Commons