They discover an "alien" ecosystem

Rock structures that look like an alien ecosystem covered in microbes beneath the crystal-clear waters of lakes surrounded by vast salt flats in the Puna de Atacama were recently discovered.

The University of Colorado Boulder (USA) announced that geologists have discovered an unusual ecosystem in the Puna de Atacama, located on the border of Argentina and Chile, that may provide important information about the origin of life on Earth and Mars. .

On this desert plateau, located 3.660 m above sea level, a system of 12 lagoons surrounded by vast salt plains has been discovered.

Beneath the crystal-clear waters of these lagoons, which cover an area of ​​101.171 square meters, scientists have discovered 4,6-meter-wide mounds of stones covered in bacteria that look like an alien landscape.

An ecosystem that seems alien never seen before

According to experts, these structures resemble the first known life forms on our planet, called stromatolites. They are believed to have existed during the Early Archaic period, which was characterized by a lack of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere.

"This lagoon may be one of the most modern examples of the first signs of life on Earth"said geologist Brian Hynek, noting that the environment he called "alien"This planet is unlike any other environment."It's amazing that things like this can still be found on our planet.", he claimed.

Today, stromatolites form in a variety of marine habitats, such as those found off the coast of the Bahamas. However, compared to their primitive ancestors, which reached heights of 6 meters, modern stromatolites are relatively smaller and grow passively, feeding on grains of sand and debris floating in the ocean.

In the case of the stromatolites discovered in Atacama, experts explain that they are mainly composed of gypsum, a mineral found in ancient communities of these microorganisms, but not in other modern equivalent communities.

""We think these mounds actually grew from bacteria, just like older mounds."Hynek said, noting that it is still unknown how these organisms could reproduce in such a hostile environment. On the other hand, scientists point out that "Understanding these modern communities on Earth could inform us what to look for when searching for similar features in Martian rocks."."If life ever evolved on Mars to the level of fossils, this would have been it"Hynek said.

Geologists plan to conduct additional experiments to confirm that stromatolites are built in the rock formations where they are found and analyze the conditions that allow them to exist in the desert.

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