A team from West Virginia University uncovered the microbes within a piece of ancient halite — mineral salt — from a site in Australia, it adds. As the team reports in the journal Geology, the halite sample hailed from a 830 million-year-old rock formation known as the Browne formation. Further, within fluid bubbles that got trapped in the sample, they noted tiny spheres that were consistent with microorganisms.
These findings, first author Sara Schreder-Gomes, then a master's student at WVU, tells Vice, could have implications for the search for life on Mars. Futurism notes that Mars has numerous rock crops similar to the Browne Formation.
Further, the researchers speculate that the microbes they found could still be alive. "We know that modern halophilic organisms, including bacteria, archaea, algae, and fungi, have 'survival mechanisms' that allow them to survive adverse conditions," Schreder-Gomes tells Vice.