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Single biggest obstacle to Earth bacteria thriving on Mars

  1. Mar 2, 2017 #1
    If we took some of Earth's hardiest extremophile microorganisms and placed them on Mars, what one factor on Mars would be most difficult for them to cope with?
    too cold, low oxygen, low atmospheric pressure, radiation, lack of liquid water, toxic soil, lack of organic material, acidity

    Please no comments or whining about "infecting" Mars. :) This is hypothetical.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2017 #2
    I would think that lack of organic material and liquid water would be the most important reasons, but I don't think there is one single answer, as they are all important factors.
  4. Mar 2, 2017 #3
    Extremophile organisms on Earth have adapted to thrive in an extreme environment somewhere on Earth.
    That does not imply that they are equipped to deal with any extreme environment anywhere..
    Many of them would probably not survive if they were relocated to some other place on Earth outside of their usual environment.
  5. Mar 2, 2017 #4
    You stated that "many" would not survive, meaning that some might. I think it would be remarkable if we could identify at least one type of bacteria that could survive and proliferate outside or underground on another planet or moon without any assistance from humans.
  6. Mar 2, 2017 #5
    I think the main point is that while some extremophiles may survive in the conditions you listed in the OP, and there may even be an extremophile for each one of those conditions that could survive, it is unlikely that you could find an extremophile that could survive in all those conditions simultaneously (which would likely have to be the case in most close-by planets). Otherwise I'm sure we would've made an attempt by now.
  7. Mar 2, 2017 #6


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    I agree w/ both of Comeback City's posts and would have said much the same things had he not beat me to it.
  8. Mar 2, 2017 #7
    Too quick! :-p
  9. Mar 2, 2017 #8


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    So YOU are turbo snail :smile:
  10. Mar 2, 2017 #9
    Of course! Can't catch me ?:)
  11. Mar 2, 2017 #10
    I said probably not many would survive outside of the environment they are used to but I don't actually know if any of them would.
    My point was that those creatures adaptations are to a particular environment that would be deadly to most other life.
    As such they not only can survive that otherwise hostile environment, it's quite likely that those conditions are a necessity for them.
  12. Mar 3, 2017 #11
    I just wonder what all the worry is about then that our Mars landers are sufficiently sterilized before launch. Scientists must think there is at least some chance that microbes could survive there.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2017
  13. Mar 3, 2017 #12


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    Extremophiles adapted to their current environments across many generations. Their odds of surviving a transplant from their current habitat to a hostile alien one without time for adaptation are pretty grim. It is worth asking - are there any existing microbes that could survive long enough to adapt to a martian environment?
  14. Mar 3, 2017 #13
    It is indeed a question worth asking. I've read about lichens being a good candidate for surviving on Mars. According to this BBC Earth article, "Scientists believe a handful of single celled creatures could have what it takes to survive on the Red Planet." It names Deinococcus radiodurans as the best candidate for surviving on Mars due to its ability to withstand extreme radiation and extreme temperatures.
    Wikipedia: "Deinococcus radiodurans is an extremophilic bacterium, one of the most radiation-resistant organisms known. It can survive cold, dehydration, vacuum, and acid, and is therefore known as a polyextremophile and has been listed as the world's toughest bacterium in The Guinness Book Of World Records."
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2017
  15. Mar 3, 2017 #14


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    So then all it needs is to adapt from acid tolerance to alkali tolerance!
  16. Mar 3, 2017 #15
    But can it survive without oxygen and liquid water?
  17. Mar 3, 2017 #16
    Yes. I believe that would be covered by dehydration and vacuum.

    Mars is more hospitable than a vacuum. It has water vapor in the atmosphere and liquid water is also believed to flow intermittently. Mars' atmosphere does contain some oxygen, although not all forms of bacteria require oxygen to survive.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2017
  18. Mar 3, 2017 #17
    Interesting. What about the other conditions in the OP?
  19. Mar 3, 2017 #18
    Low atmospheric pressure is the biggest unknown. I can't find too much information about polyextremophiles surviving in Martian atmospheric pressure. I did find this article though.

    It appears that all of the extreme conditions on Mars can be survived by some type of Earth microorganisms. The question is whether once single type can withstand all of those conditions.
  20. Mar 3, 2017 #19
    Interesting... there were meteorite rocks with bacteria found within these rocks blasted from Mars during a strike from a meteor long ago.

    See: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/lpi/meteorites/The_Meteorite.shtml

    So if such an event say Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event - (66 million years ago)... could Earth bound bacteria have made it up to Mars and have survived?
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2017
  21. Mar 3, 2017 #20


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    The article says POSSIBLE "fossiles". This has not been confirmed. Where do you get "bacteria" ?
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