Pasta-like stones on Mars can be a sign of life

The researchers concluded that the rovers should check for the existence of bacteria stone formations on Mars, similar in shape to the paste.

According to scientists whose work was published in the journal Astrobiology, similar structures are formed on Earth. On our planet Sulfurihydrogenibium yellowstonense causes them. It belongs to extremophiles, and therefore, it can potentially exist in Martian conditions.

It is likely, according to scientists, that this type of bacteria lives on the surface of Mars and thrives. The bacterium belongs to a line that evolved before oxygen began to appear in the Earth’s atmosphere (about 2.35 billion years ago). It can survive in very hot water, right near geothermal sources. The bacterium can also withstand intense ultraviolet light and feels good in low-oxygen environments using sulfur and carbon dioxide as energy sources.

Sulfurihydrogenibium yellowstonense catalyzes the formation of crystalline rocks that look like layers of pasta. The unique shape and structure of the rocks associated with Sulfurihydrogenibium yellowstonense are the result of her unusual lifestyle. In the fast-flowing water, bacteria cling to each other and “hold on with all their might.” They form tight threads that fly like a flag. They are visible to the human eye and are most like fettuccine pasta.
Structures formed by bacteria and limestone, called traverine terraces, in Yellowstone National Park / © Frank Schulenburg, Wikimedia Commons

The team analyzed the microbial genomes, assessed which genes had the most active expression, and deciphered the metabolic needs of these bacteria. Scientists also investigated the potential of Sulfurihydrogenibium yellowstonense in rock construction. An interesting fact was discovered: proteins on the surface of bacteria accelerate the rate of crystallization of calcium carbonate around and inside the bacterial filaments. Thanks to proteins, this process takes place in the threads a billion times faster than in any other natural environment on Earth. As a result, broad bands of hardened rock with a wavy filamentary texture are formed.

These structures, according to scientists, it is difficult to confuse with something. Therefore, if they can be found on Mars, this will be one of the main signs of life on the planet in the present or the past.