Life Found Trapped Within Crystals In Mexico Cave Could Be 50,000 Years Old
Our planet is teeming with life which can often be found hiding secretly in the remotest of corners and in the least expected places.
Scientists have now discovered crystals that are trapped in a Mexican cave. That is not all — trapped in these giant crystals are 50,000-year-old microbial life forms. The discovery has given a new dimension to the history of microbial life forms on Earth.
According to a NASA researcher, the trapped microbial life forms found deep inside the Mexican caves are most probably new to science. The organisms — which were found in caves in Naica mine — are able to survive on iron, manganese and other chemicals.
According to the researchers, even though they have been sleeping for several thousand years, the organisms are still active.
"These organisms have been dormant but viable for geologically significant periods of time, and they can be released due to other geological processes," shared Penelope Boston, the director of the NASA Astrobiology Institution.
She also mentioned that the findings of the microbes may lead NASA to think about exploring other planets in the solar system.
"This has profound effects on how we try to understand the evolutionary history of microbial life on this planet," added Boston.
Boston made the announcement of the recent findings at the conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
What The Research Revealed
When the researchers were working on their project to draw out lead and silver from the Cave of Crystals or Naica mines, they had to pump out the groundwater from the underground caverns.
It was during this activity that the researchers unearthed a "labyrinth of massive mily-white crystals," which supposedly extended to around 30 feet lengthwise.
For the unfamiliar, the Naica caves are an abandoned zinc and lead mine which are nearly half a mile deep. The crystals line the cave's walls and it is so hot inside that scientists were required to wear makeshift space suits to avoid contamination. The researchers also had ice packs on their body.
From 2008 to 2009, Boston and her team took samples from the trapped crystals. The researchers were able to successfully "wake up" the sleeping microbes that were trapped in the fluids inside the crystals. They used this to grow cultures.
The researchers' analysis has revealed that these microbes are unlike anything that are known to scientists. They found that even though the organisms were akin to microbes found on volcanic terrains and caves, they were genetically unique when compared with all the other organisms found on Earth.
According to previous data, the oldest crystals in the Naica caves were half a million years old. Based on these assumptions, coupled with the calculations for the rate of growth for crystals, Boston and her team of researchers conclude that the microbes found may have been inside the shimmering cocoons for around 10,000 to 50,000 years.
The findings have not yet been published and are yet to undergo the peer-review process, which is considered the authentic first step in verifying the findings.