. Mars Exploration News .

Curiosity on Mars sits on rocks similar to those found in marshes in Mexico
by Staff Writers
Mexico City, Mexico (SPX) Oct 31, 2012

Cuatro Cienegas (Mexico) and the Gale crater on Mars. Credits: Luis Eguiarte Fruns// NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Millions of years ago fire and water forged the gypsum rocks locked in at Cuatro Cienegas, a Mexican valley similar to the Martian crater where NASA's Rover Curiosity roams. A team of researchers have now analysed the bacterial communities that have survived in these inhospitable springs since the beginning of life on Earth.

"Cuatro Cienegas is extraordinarily similar to Mars. As well as the Gale crater where Curiosity is currently located on its exploration of the red planet, this landscape is the home to gypsum formed by fire beneath the seabed," as explained to SINC by Valeria Souza, evolutionary ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

The researcher states that sulphur components from magma and minerals from the sea (carbonates and molecules with magnesium) are required to form gypsum. In the case of the Cuatro Cienegas Basin, the magma under the seabed was very active.

In fact, it allowed for the continent displacement during the Jurassic Period: "Here was where the supercontinent Pangea opened up some 200 million years ago, pushing the hemisphere north from the equator where it is now."

In the case of Mars, the scientists have not been able to confirm tectonic movement in its crust at any point, but they believe that a large meteorite crashed into its primitive sea. The fact that probing has detected gypsum in the Gale crater indicates that mineral-rich water was present and that sulphur was able to form due to the impact of the meteorite causing the crater.

It is no easy task to find a place on Earth similar to this Martian environment, except in Cuatro Cienegas. For this reason astrobiologists toil in their work to understand how its bacterial communities work.

"This oasis in the middle of the Chihuahua desert is a time machine for organisms that, together as a community, have transformed our blue planet yet have survived all extinctions. How they have managed to do this can be revealed by their genes," says Souza.

The team have analysed the 'metagenomes', the genome of the different bacterial communities that proliferate in these marshes by adapting parallel strategies to overcome survival challenges in a place with so little nutrients.

Green, red and blue springs
The results published in the journal 'Astrobiology' journal reflect the existence of two communities in different pits for example. One is 'green' and is formed by cyanobacteria and proteobacteria that have adapted to the lack of nitrogen.

Another is 'red' and is made of Pseudomonas and other micro-organisms that live without hardly any phosphorous. There are also blue springs which are generally deeper and lacking in nutrients.

"Understanding the usage and exploitation strategies of phosphorous is necessary in understanding what could happen in extreme scenarios like on other planets where there is a possibly serious limitation to this and other nutrients," explains Luis David Alcaraz, Mexican researcher participating in the study from the Higher Public Health Research centre of Valencia, Spain.

This project has enjoyed the support of Mexico's Carlos Slim Foundation and the Technological Innovation Research Project Support Programme of UNAM. It has also received the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) of the USA and NASA, which has been studying Cuatro Cienegas for more than a decade.

The Cuatrocienegas Flora and Fauna Protection Area is a protected area but the scientists and conservation groups are worried that its water is being over exhausted.

"The bacterial communities have survived all types of cataclysms here such as the extinction of the dinosaurs or the majority of marine creatures. But, the only thing they are not adapted for is the lack of water," warns Souza.


Related Links
Science News at Alpha Galileo
Mars Science Laboratory
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Get Our Free Newsletters
Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear


Assessing Drop-Off to Mars Rover's Observation Tray
Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 26, 2012
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the mission's 78th sol (Oct. 24, 2012) to view soil material on the rover's observation tray. The observations will help assess movement of the sample on the tray in response to vibrations from sample-delivery and sample-processing activities of mechanisms on the rover's arm. Curiosity is working with material from the ... read more

Study: Moon basin formed by giant impact

NASA's LADEE Spacecraft Gets Final Science Instrument Installed

Astrium presents results of its study into automatic landing near the Moon's south pole

European mission to search for moon water

China to launch 11 meteorological satellites by 2020

China makes progress in spaceflight research

Patience for Tiangong

China launches civilian technology satellites

Packed Week Ahead for Six-Member Crew

New crew docks with ISS: Russia

ISS Crew Gets Ready for New Expedition 33 Trio

New ISS Crew Confirmed

Keck Observations Bring Weather Of Uranus Into Sharp Focus

At Pluto, Moons and Debris May Be Hazardous to New Horizons Spacecraft During Flyby

Sharpest-ever Ground-based Images of Pluto and Charon: Proves a Powerful Tool for Exoplanet Discoveries

The Kuiper Belt at 20: Paradigm Changes in Our Knowledge of the Solar System

Saturn's giant storm reveals the planet's churning atmosphere

Giant impact scenario may explain the unusual moons of Saturn

What's Baking on Titan?

The sound in Saturn's rings: RUB-Physicists explain nonlinear dust acoustic waves in dusty plasmas

NASA Radar Penetrates Thick, Thin of Gulf Oil Spill

Satellite images tell tales of changing biodiversity

Google adds terrain to Maps as default

Rapid changes in the Earth's core: The magnetic field and gravity from a satellite perspective

Voyager observes magnetic field fluctuations in heliosheath

New NASA Online Science Resource Available for Educators and Students

'First' Pakistan astronaut wants to make peace in space

Space daredevil Baumgartner is 'officially retired'

New Study Brings a Doubted Exoplanet 'Back from the Dead'

New small satellite will study super-Earths for ESA

Most Planetary Systems are 'Flatter than Pancakes'

Glitch could end NASA planet search

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement