Who lived on Earth 830 million years ago? What creatures inhabited our planet at a time when life was just emerging on it? Who, in fact, were our distant ancestors?
These fundamental questions are soon to be answered by researchers from the Geological Society of America. They found halite – a crystal of table salt, inside which they saw tiny droplets of liquid.
The halite with the potentially live microorganisms was found in the Brown Formation in Australia. Now it is a desert, but once this area was filled with an ancient salty sea.
Scientists believe that the liquid inside the crystal is “inhabited” – it contains microorganisms and perhaps they are still alive.
“We’re going to extract them,” says Kathy Benison of West Virginia University. And let it not seem strange our assumption that the creatures released into the wild will still be alive. Our predecessors somehow extracted living prokaryotes, single-celled bacteria that had been “imprisoned” for 250 million years.
“The possible survival of microorganisms on geologic time scales is not fully understood,” the researchers write.
It has been suggested that radiation destroys organic matter over a long period of time. micro-organisms can also survive in fluid inclusions as a result of metabolic changes, including survival during starvation and cyst stages, as well as coexistence with organic compounds or dead cells that can serve as sources of nutrients.
The reasons for such a long survivability are still unknown to scientists. They only assume that microorganisms are able to fall into a long – almost eternal – hibernation. From this, they can spend hundreds of millions of years in captivity without dying, thus they can be some kind of immortal organisms.
Katya Benison believes that the research she is involved in will be useful to those who are looking for life on Mars. On the surface of the neighboring planet, there are traces of salt lakes, and even they themselves are in a frozen form. It is possible that halite crystals with inclusions of living microorganisms will also be found at their bottom.
Not everyone shares optimism with the US geologists and approve of their intentions. There are also reinsurers who fear that the release of ancient creatures may turn into some kind of trouble – like unexpected pandemics.
Meanwhile, if you release into the world a microbe that has been sleeping in a crystal for a billion years, it may happen that 7 billion people instead of a microbe will fall into eternal sleep. And then they will sleep in salt deposits for another billion years, until the next scientist finds a halite crystal with a dangerous strain and decides to resurrect it. Thus, the natural circulation will go into a new cycle.
Let’s for not forget that In a glacier in Tibet, 28 viruses unknown to science have been discovered that have “frozen” high in the mountains for the past 15,000 years. Some scientists fear that among the frozen and thawed are the causative agents of terrible diseases – unknown infectious agents.
Even without taking into account questions about extraterrestrial life, the results of the study of such ancient organisms can blow (in a good way) the brains of the scientific community. If they are alive, then this is some ancient DNA you can check out. We are waiting for the developments and stocking up on popcorn just in case.