Red snow: scientists have discovered life on the glacier of a high-mountain volcano in the Atacama desert
American and Chilean researchers found two types of bacteria on the glacier of the volcano Llullaillaco. This second highest volcano in the world is located on a lifeless dry plateau in the Atacama desert on the border of Chile and Argentina. The climate there is similar to Martian. Found bacteria, chlamydomonadaceae unicellular green algae have adapted to live in kangaspuro — bizarre snow formations on the glacier thawed. Scientists believe that the discovery will help in the search for life on other planets. Red snow: scientists have discovered life on the glacier of a high-mountain volcano in the Atacama desert
A group of researchers from Colorado and Florida universities (USA) and Antofagasta University (Chile) found in snow formations on the glacier highland volcano Llullaillaco two kinds of chlamydomonad — celled algae that can survive in extreme conditions.
The active volcano is The second highest in the world. It is located on the border of Chile and Argentina on a high plateau in the heart of the Atacama desert. This arid region is considered one of the most uninhabitable places on the planet. The inhospitable environment of Atacama has long been studied as the most similar to the Martian. Previously, scientists have stated about the discovery of traces of life in the desert soil, but this time they were the first to detect biological activity on the glacier thawed at the top of the Atacama volcano.
Exposure to extreme temperatures, winds, high level of UV radiation and the rarefied atmosphere in the thawed glaciers are formed oligospora (or Penitentes), also known as the “penitent snow” and “the penitent monks”, — snow education, named in honor of the monastic order. At the time, artist and climber Rudolf Reschreiter first saw oligospora, compared them with the praying monks in white robes. The height of such ice sculptures can reach six meters. It is believed that oligospora cover not only the earth summit. They were recently discovered on Pluto and presumably also exist on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.
How did you find the researchers, “the penitent monks” volcano Llullaillaco sheltered at a height of more than 5 thousand meters of the two forms of life — chlamydomonadaceae unicellular green Alga Chlamydomonas and Chloromonas. It was possible to find them thanks to the effect of “red snow” — these cold-loving bacteria multiply so intensively that their mass stains the snow surface. The characteristic red color gives hlamidomonada part of their structure of the carotenoid astaxanthin.
“Red snow” on top of the volcano Llullaillaco, first discovered at the height of 5277 m
“Snow algae can often be found in the cryosphere on ice and snow areas, but our study for the first time showed their presence at extreme altitude in Hyper-arid areas,” said the lead author of the study and doctoral student of the Department of ecology and evolutionary biology of the University of Colorado at boulder Lara Wimercati.
“It is interesting that most of the snow algae we have found are closely related to other known snow algae in high and polar regions,” added Vimercati.
Living microorganisms have been found in the depths of the Chilean Atacama desert, the driest place on Earth. The discovery was made with…
Scientists believe that the results not only expand the understanding of the possibilities of life in extreme conditions on Earth, but also are important for the search for biological activity beyond.
“In General, we are interested in the adaptation of organisms to extreme environmental conditions. And this may be a good place to look for the limits in which life can exist,” said Professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado at boulder and one of the authors of the study, Steve Schmidt.
According to scientists, the search for life should be made primarily where potential inhabitants have access to water. The discovery of researchers and recent space discoveries give a chance that “penitent monks” can in similar conditions give shelter to alien life.
“Our research shows that, no matter how difficult the surrounding conditions, in the presence of liquid water, life will be able to adapt to them.”