Friday, May 06, 2016

23 Species of Bacteria That Grow Under Martian Atmospheric Conditions

Twenty-Three Species of Hypobarophilic Bacteria Recovered from Diverse Ecosystems Exhibit Growth under Simulated Martian Conditions at 0.7 kPa


Schuerger et al


Bacterial growth at low pressure is a new research area with implications for predicting microbial activity in clouds and the bulk atmosphere on Earth, and for modeling the forward contamination of planetary surfaces like Mars. Here, we describe experiments on the recovery and identification of 23 species of bacterial hypobarophiles (def., growth under hypobaric conditions of approximately 1–2 kPa) in 11 genera capable of growth at 0.7 kPa. Hypobarophilic bacteria, but not archaea or fungi, were recovered from soil and non-soil ecosystems. The highest numbers of hypobarophiles were recovered from Arctic soil, Siberian permafrost, and human saliva. Isolates were identified through 16S rRNA sequencing to belong to the genera Carnobacterium, Exiguobacterium, Leuconostoc, Paenibacillus, and Trichococcus. The highest population of culturable hypobarophilic bacteria (5.1 × 104 cfu/g) was recovered from Colour Lake soils from Axel Heiberg Island in the Canadian Arctic. In addition, we extend the number of hypobarophilic species in the genus Serratia to six type-strains that include S. ficaria, S. fonticola, S. grimesii, S. liquefaciens, S. plymuthica, and S. quinivorans. Microbial growth at 0.7 kPa suggests that pressure alone will not be growth-limiting on the martian surface or in Earth's atmosphere up to an altitude of 34 km.

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