Yahoo! News – NASA Turns to Mexican Lake for Clues to Alien Life

Yahoo! News – NASA Turns to Mexican Lake for Clues to Alien Life: “By Tim Gaynor

CUATRO CIENEGAS, Mexico (Reuters) – With cobalt waters harboring eerie, coral-like formations, this archipelago of lakes in Mexico’s searing Chihuahuan desert has always had an other-worldly appearance.

Now top researchers at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration say the calcified clumps of primitive bacteria lurking in its pools could provide important clues in their search for extraterrestrial life.

The network of 170 cactus-ringed lagoons around the town of Cuatro Cienegas have intrigued evolutionary biologists for decades because their fish, snail and turtle species rival the Galapagos Islands in their uniqueness.

Scientists from NASA’s Astrobiology Institute have begun studying the lakes’ ancient formations called stromatolites — rock structures formed by layers of algae that trap silt. Conditions within the stromatolites are similar to those that prevailed on Earth for more than 2 billion years before the dinosaurs evolved.

Studying their organisms could help NASA identify the unique atmospheric conditions created by primitive life on planets orbiting nearby stars and help settle the question of whether we are alone in the universe.

‘They may be our best example of what to look for on other planets,’ said Brad Bebout, a researcher at the NASA Ames Research Center, as he prepared to harvest methane belched out by the organisms in a shallow blue-green pool.

‘Most of the time that life has been on Earth, this is what it looked like, not like the plants and animals that you see around you now,’ he added.”

I always knew there were strange new worlds to explore down south of here…


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