Scientists have long searched for the origin of life on Earth, and new findings from Yellowstone National Park might help explain it.
What Was Discovered At Yellowstone National Park?
Microbiologists discovered a new archaeal lineage living in parts of Yellowstone National Park. This discovery would likely help scientists determine the origin of life on Earth and possibly on other planets.
A study about the discovery was published on May 14 in the journal Nature Microbiology.
"The discovery of archaeal lineages is critical to our understanding of the universal tree of life and evolutionary history of the Earth," wrote Montana State University's Professor William Inskeep and the co-authors. "Geochemically diverse thermal environments in Yellowstone National Park provide unprecedented opportunities for studying Archaea in habitats that may represent analogues of early Earth."
The archaea are one of the earliest forms of cellular life on Earth. This discovery might explain how it evolved over time and how life on Earth changed.
Specifically, the archaea were discovered in the acidic waters of Yellowstone. They don't need a lot of oxygen and they thrive with iron oxides. Their discovery might explain how life thrived on Earth at a time when the chemical composition was different.
The Name Of The New Archaeal Lineage
The researchers decided to call the new archaeal lineage Marsarchaeota after the planet Mars because they can survive in habitats with iron oxides, the chemical compounds that give Mars its red color.
In addition to naming the new archaeal lineage, the researchers also identified two main subgroups that can survive in a habitat with iron oxide. The first subgroup can survive in water above 122 degrees Fahrenheit and the other subgroup can survive in water above 140 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit.
The researchers also discovered that the new archaeal lineage cannot produce iron oxide, which sheds some light about the conditions of Earth billions of years ago.
The Importance Of The Archaeal Discovery
This new discovery will help scientists connect the dots when it comes to understanding high-temperature biology and molecular biology. It could provide important insight regarding early life on Earth and possibly early life on the surface of Mars. More research will be required to see the new implications of it.
For the researchers, it is incredible just to have their work published.
"In the end, after many years of work, it's exciting, and a relief, to have our team's work recognized and published, particularly in a high-impact journal," said researcher Zackary Jay.