In work published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, scientists found extremophiles -- photoautotrophic microbial communities -- in the Atacama desert in Chile, the driest place on Earth and also the place that most resembles the conditions on Mars. If life could be found to exist here, the authors suppose, it could be found on Mars, too. Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder's Alpine Microbial Observatory combined biogeochemical and molecular phylogenetics to look at the genetic diversity of the microbial community at the top of the 19,850-foot-high Socompa volcano. Near the areas around the volcanic fumaroles, they found "a thriving, complex microbial community that appears to be supported by gases emanating from volcanic vents around the rim," says a post at Ars Technica.
Going to the Extreme
Mar 07, 2009