In the never-ending line of discoveries relating to the robustness of life, scientists have recently made two important discoveries. The first, which revived bacteria and algae that had been frozen for 2,800 years, is an exciting discovery for prospects of Mars life. Peter Doran of the University of Illinois at Chicago led a team to Lake Vida in the Antarctic. This is no ordinary lake; it has dozens of feet of ice above a pristine water body. They drilled through about 50 feet of ice and collected frozen samples, stopping just short of reaching the water layer. The team was able to reinstate metabolic activity of bacteria and algae by adding water. Although these samples were 2,800 years old, it is theoretically possible to reinvigorate life millions of years old. This study area represents a strong analogy for environments that could harbor life, extinct or extant, on Mars. For more on this story, visit: The NSF Press Release
In another story of diminutive life, microbiologist Karl Setter thinks he has found the organism that has the world’s simplest genome. A few months ago, Setter discovered a new Archaean that actually rides the surface of a larger Archaean. Nonoarchaeum equitans is a mere 400 nanometers across, and when its entire genome is sequenced, it may indeed prove to be the simplest organism yet known. Setter has found these organisms in places like deep-sea vents and in Yellowstone National Park hot springs. Partially due to their extremely small size and simplicity of their genome, he thinks that Nonoarchaeum deserves its own phylum of Archaea. To learn more, visit: Astrobiology Magazine.
Finally, in a much more controversial story, scientists have found bacteria at an altitude of 41 km. Dr. Milton Wainwright of the University of Sheffield was able to culture and “revive” two species of bacteria and one species of fungus. Currently, the origin of bacteria is undetermined and highly disputed. Both BBC.com and Space.com have released stories on this recent finding.