NASA announced on June 27 of its plans of sending a lander to Titan, which contains water and methane and has all the right conditions for harboring life. Back on Earth, researchers are analyzing extreme environmental conditions to discover how life could exist under such settings. Microbes discovered in cryopegs have been studied, which resemble conditions on Mars and such other planets away from Sun.
Recently in Washington, DNA sequencing results were presented, where it was shown brine samples brought from Alaskan cryopegs, cut off for millennia, contained bacterial communities. These are very similar to bacteria found in saltwater from glaciers and sea ice. However, they have unique patterns. Zachary Cooper, the lead author, stated that they studied seawater, which was trapped for over 50000 years, to understand evolution of bacterial communities.
Extreme salt concentrations and low temperatures comprise these extreme conditions. 14% salt concentrations are usually enough to block out microbe activity. It is usually considered that high salt concentrations don’t encourage life. Cryopeg formation isn’t still fully understood. Some consider them to have formed in the previous ice age back when moisture evaporated and water bodies were trapped under soil layers. For accessing these segments, researchers had to go in twelve feet, drill for long hours while crouching. These samples contain bacterial genes along with viruses. Cooper stated that it was only discovered now that there is a robust microbe community, which co-evolved with viruses, located in these buried brines. They were startled at the density of these bacterial communities. Similar to ice and oceans of various other planets, these resemble potential grounds for life on other planets.
Marinobacter is the dominant microbe. It originally developed in a maritime environment.
Mars has harbored water bodies before, and other moons and planets in the solar system also contain over 6 oceans. Studying these extreme life conditions could cast light over what to expect on various other planets & methods of detection.