ArticlePDF Available

Lichens on Mars vs the Hematite Hoax. Why Life Flourishes on the Radiation- Iron-Rich Red Planet.

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

There is life on Mars as documented with 100 comparative photos. This evidence includes pigmented/melanized fungi and lichens, fungi shedding crustose and secreting calcium oxalate, fungi preparing to spore, spores on the surface sprouting embryonic mushrooms, fungus growing out of the ground, lichens with hollow stalks, vast colonies of lichens attached to rocks and oriented skyward similar to photosynthesizing lichens on Earth, and documentation that the claims of spherical hematite is a hoax--a byproduct of religious extremism at NASA--which is why the hematite claims were immediately rejected as inappropriate and implausible by a number of investigators who proposed instead they are tektites and accretionary lapilli produced by meteor impact and volcano. Be they on the surface or attached to Martian rocks they have no resemblance to terrestrial hematite. The “spheres” of Mars are uniform in shape and size (1mm or 3mm to 6 mm) and all were initially described as “yellow” “orange” “purple” and “blue” the pigmented colors of photosynthesizing organisms. Terrestrial hematite “spheres” are colored red to dark red, consist of less than 2% hematite which form a thin layer on the surface and have a wide variety of sizes and shapes and are infiltrated by fungi and lichens. A review of the Opportunity teams’ methodology and instrumentation reveals that data was contaminated and confounded by numerous uncontrolled variables including problems with instrument calibrations and they relied on inference, speculation, data manipulation, and spectra from panoramic images that were selectively eliminated in a failed attempt to make it conform to laboratory samples. The iron-rich radiation-intense Red Planet provides an ideal environment for fungus and lichens to flourish and promotes growth and sporing and production of melanin which protects against while simultaneously utilizing radiation for metabolic energy. Algae secrete calcium and lichens and fungi produce calcium oxalate that “weathers” and dissolves minerals and metals which are utilized as nutrients and are stored on cellular surfaces. Terrestrial species are iron-rich and precipitate hematite which makes these fungi and lichens ideal bioindicators of metal and minerals; whereas on Mars they are likely supersaturated with these and other minerals and metals as reflected by spectral data. Fungi and lichens secrete calcium oxalate which coats and surrounds mycelium, but upon exposure to dry surface conditions forms waves of calcium “cement” that may cement these organisms to layers of calcium oxalate fossilizing and making them “harder than rock.” Yet others grow out of the ground and are obviously alive. Given evidence documenting biological residue in Martian meteorites, biological activity in soil samples, seasonal increases in methane and oxygen which parallel biological fluctuations on Earth, and pictorial and quantitative morphological evidence of stromatolites fossilized tube worms and metazoans, growth of mushrooms and fungi, and vast colonies of rock-dwelling lichens, it is concluded that the evidence is obvious: There is life on Mars.
Content may be subject to copyright.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... Although lacking spider-like appendages, sphericals on Mars less than a few mm in size, and that appear to be geo-biological concretions (Joseph et al. 2019;Rizzo et al. 2021;Robbins, 2021) or purely abiotic mineral concretions (Robbins, 2021) have been reported by a number of investigators. These are not to be confused with the larger spherical structures that have stalks and stems and which have been identified as fungal puffballs and lichens (Armstrong 2021, Dass 2017Joseph 2016Joseph , 2021Joseph et al. 2021); though not all scientists agree with this interpretation. As depicted in Figures 1, 2, 33, some Martian mm-in-size sphericals--two of which were photographed less than a few centimeters from each other--appear to be life-like and equipped with what could be interpreted as forward-facing "eyes" as well as pleopods and pareiopods; which among terrestrial organisms enable movement and food gathering. ...
... Although lacking spider-like appendages, sphericals on Mars less than a few mm in size, and that appear to be geo-biological concretions (Joseph et al. 2019;Rizzo et al. 2021;Robbins, 2021) or purely abiotic mineral concretions (Robbins, 2021) have been reported by a number of investigators. These are not to be confused with the larger spherical structures that have stalks and stems and which have been identified as fungal puffballs and lichens (Armstrong 2021, Dass 2017Joseph 2016Joseph , 2021Joseph et al. 2021); though not all scientists agree with this interpretation. As depicted in Figures 1, 2, 33, some Martian mm-in-size sphericals--two of which were photographed less than a few centimeters from each other--appear to be life-like and equipped with what could be interpreted as forward-facing "eyes" as well as pleopods and pareiopods; which among terrestrial organisms enable movement and food gathering. ...
... Robbins (2021) many of the smallest surface spheres photographed on Mars "resemble soil concretions/iron-Mn nodules/pisolites in size and abundance..." and may be "composed of both hydrated and anhydrous iron-oxide minerals" and that iron bacteria and filamentous fungi play a role in their formation. As is well documented, there is evidence of algae and fungi in Gale Crater (Joseph et al. 2020a(Joseph et al. , 2021Latif et al. 2021) and these organisms may feed on iron that promotes photosynthesis and calcium oxalate production (Joseph 2021). ...
Article
Full-text available
Symmetrical micro-structures from 1-2 mm to 1 cm in diameter with multiple appendages and shapes resembling "spiders" have been photographed in Gale Crater, many attached to honeycombed or multi-layered sediments similar to dolomite and archean stromatolites of Earth dated to over 2.2bya. Oval-shaped mm-in-size lifelike specimens with forward-facing-orifices and appendages resembling pleopods and pareiopods were observed, one of which--based on sequential images--appeared in front of a formerly occluded now empty hole, whereas some "spiders" increased in size over a five day period. Some spider-like formations may consist of algae and mushroom-shaped fungi and lichens that have grown together and whose appendages consist of hyphae and mycelium. Similarities with terrestrial stromatolites and embedded "spider-like" formations within, support the hypothesis that as Martian algae-fungi colonies increase in size and number they secrete calcium oxalate and form microbial layers punctuated with symmetrical and spider-like formations. Some "spiders" and other lifelike specimens may be abiogenic mineral-soil concretions. It is possible some specimens are living organisms capable of locomotion and whose "alien" appearance is due to having evolved and adapted to the unique environments of Mars.
... Sol 1905, Outcrop imaged by rover Curiosity using MAHLI at Vera Rubin Ridge, Mars presented Labels indicate individual specimens of stick-like structures (Baucon et al., 2020). Anyhow, further analysis regards same specimen interpreted as mold likes Ichno fossils (Sun et al., 2012;Magdalena et al., 2019;Joseph et al., 2020aJoseph et al., , 2021. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. ...
... Therefore, mineralization may have led to the compartmental crystal formation in the body of the tube worms on Mars (Joseph et al. 2021a,b) as well as Earth (Chan, 2015). (Robbins, 2021) and spherical puffballs (Armstrong, 2021a;Dass, 2017;Joseph et al. 2020aJoseph et al. ,b,, 2021cJoseph 2014Joseph , 2016Joseph , 2021. It is well stablished that terrestrial tektites, lapilli, soil concretions and hematite are infiltrated with bacteria and fungi (Joseph et al. 2019;Robbins, 2021). ...
... CaO (6.93), MgO (7.38) (Tables 1-4). Joseph et al (2021) argues that this mineralogy is also typical of hydrothermal vents that have been colonized by tube worms. Christensen et al., (2004) and Squyers et al. (2004) also believe this area once hosted lakes and hydrothermal vents that were inhabited. ...
Article
Full-text available
The observation of tubular structures within Endurance Crater, Mars, has been reported by Joseph et al (2021a,b) who hypothesized these may be mineralized and fossilized remnants of tube worms that in the ancient and recent past flourished within lakes of water heated by thermal vents. The discovery of what may be spherical hematite in this same vicinity supports the hydrothermal vent scenario, whereas the claims by Joseph (2021; Joseph et al. 2021c) that these spherules are fungal puffballs does not. This evidence from Endurance Crater and associated mineralogy and chemistry is reviewed. We conclude that the ancient lakes of Endurance Crater may have been heated by thermal vents and inhabited by tubular organisms that became mineralized, as hypothesized by Joseph et al; and that these same hydrothermal vents formed hematite spherules as hypothesized by the rover Opportunity team.
... Without extraction and direct physical examination it is impossible to know with absolute certainty if the spherical specimens of Mars are "puffballs," or if they belong to the fungal family known as "basidiomycota" or if they are a lichenized fungus. However, these spherical specimens closely resemble puffballs (Dass, 2017;Joseph 2016Joseph , 2021Armstrong, 2021), are almost uniform in shape and size, collect together in "colonies" of what may be tens of thousands of organisms; have been photographed in numerous locations within Meridiani Planum often adjacent to dried water pathways; have been crushed by the rover wheels only to re-appear in old rover tire tracks; and sequential photos have documented that they grow out of the ground by the dozens over a three to seven day period (Joseph and presumably to the periodic melting and upwelling of subsurface glacial-lakes and rivers of glacial water (Andrews-Hanna et al. 2007;Bibring et al. 2006). There is also evidence of underground aquifers, beginning at a depth of 1 meter beneath the surface (Clark et al. 2005) in the same area (Meridiani Planum) where vast numbers of spherical "puffballs" have also been photographed. ...
Article
Full-text available
Fungal reproductive behavior, the growth of hyphae and mycelium, and the production of spores, on Earth and Mars, are reviewed. Spherical specimens that nearly 70 experts have identified as fungal "puffballs" ("basidiomycota") have been photographed in the equatorial regions of Mars, within Meridiani Planum in particular. Over two dozen "puffballs" have been photographed emerging from beneath the ground and increasing in size. Networks of what appear to be fungal hyphae and mycelium, structural morphological changes associated with sporing, substances resembling clumps and carpets of white spores adjacent to these spherical "puffballs" and what may be embryonic fungi within these clumps of spores, have been observed. Although the authors have not proven that fungi are sporing on the Red Planet, the evidence coupled with comparative morphology supports the hypothesis that fungi are growing, generating spores, and reproducing on Mars.
... On the other hand, fungi have been photographed growing out of the ground, and atop the rovers, and increasing in size, multiplying in number, and even moving to different locations--such that it is obvious fungi are growing on Mars--although it has been argued that if all these specimens are living or fossilized organisms has not been established with absolute certainty [99]. On the other hand, in the ancient and recent past, various areas of Mars have been and are habitable [100] and evidence of life is obvious in the equatorial regions. ...
Article
Full-text available
In the ancient and recent past, various niches on Mars were habitable and possibly inhabited by organisms that have evolved and adapted to extreme surface and subsurface environments. Habitability is promoted by the high levels of iron that promotes melanization of various organisms that protects against radiation. Glacial and water-ice below the surface provides moisture to organisms at temperatures below freezing due to salts in these ices and heat generated from anomalous thermal sources. Impact craters formed over 3.7 bya appear to be highly magnetized thus providing additional protection against radiation; and if initially hosting a large body of water may have triggered the formation of hydrothermal vents. Tube worms, sulfur-reducing and other chemoautotrophs have thrived and likely still inhabit subsurface aquifers within Endurance Crater which was formed over 3.7 bya, has hosted large bodies of water, and also has the mineralogy of hydrothermal vents and surface holes surrounded by tubular specimens. Formations resembling fossil tube worms have also been observed in the ancient lake beds of Gale Crater which was formed over 3.7 bya. A comparative quantitative analysis of the Gale and Endurance Crater tubular specimens provides additional confirmation for the tube-worm hydrothermal vent hypothesis.
... Among the more controversial features discussed in the papers by Joseph et al. (2021) andJoseph (2021) are the large numbers of Martian spheroids, a proportion of which appear to have distinct stalks, photographed by Opportunity in Eagle crater (e.g. Sols 28-97) and commonly referred to as 'blueberries' (Aubrey et al. 2007). ...
Article
Full-text available
Statistical comparisons were made between the populations of Martian spheroids photographed by Opportunity and terrestrial Moqui balls and between the stalked Martian spheroids and reproductive podetia of the lichen Dibaeis baeomyces. Principal components analysis (PCA)based on various metrics suggested significant differences in statistical properties of the Martian spheroids compared with the Moqui balls but considerable similarities between the stalked spheroids and the lichen podetia. These preliminary results suggest that Moqui balls are not a good terrestrial analogue of the Martian spheroids and support the hypothesis that the stalked spheroids may represent the reproductive podetia of a lichen; albeit considerably strengthened via mineral deposition to survive the Martian environment.
... The lead author had previously reported evidence that Martian spherical fungi had shed spores and crustose/leptos upon the soil within which could be viewed embryonic mushroom-and tubular-shaped specimens similar to larger specimens photographed on Mars and to terrestrial mushrooms and tubular fungi (Joseph 2021;Joseph et al. 2021ab). During the course of searching the Mars rover Opportunity raw image data base for additional examples or spores and embryos, the lead author observed tubular and spiral specimens similar to terrestrial worms in photographs dated from Sol 177 to 199 and Sol 299. ...
Article
Full-text available
Hundreds of tubular and spiral specimens resembling terrestrial tube worms and worm tubes were photographed in the soil and atop and protruding from “rocks” on Sols 177, 199 and 299 in the vicinity of Endurance Crater, Meridiani Planum. Dozens of these putative “worms” and tubes are up to 3 mm in size. These tubular specimens display twisting, bending, and curving typical of biology and are different from abiogenic structures. Morphological comparisons with living and fossilized tube worms and worm tubes also supports the hypothesis that the Martian tubular structures may be biological as they are similar and often nearly identical to their terrestrial counterparts. The literature concerning abiotic and biotic formation of mineralized tubular formations is reviewed and the Martian tubular structures meet the criteria for biology. In addition, larger “anomalous” oval-specimens ranging from 3 mm to 5 mm in diameter were photographed and observed to have web-like appendages reminiscent of crustacean pleopods. That marine organisms may have evolved and flourished in the vicinity of Endurance Crater, Meridiani Planum, was originally predicted by NASA’s rover Opportunity crew in 2004, 2005, and 2006. This area is believed to have hosted a briny body of water that was heated by hydrothermal vents; and these are favored habitats of tube worms. Further, all these specimens were photographed adjacent to vents in the surface and the mineralogy of Endurance Crater is similar to that produced by tube worms and their symbiotes. However, if any of these specimens are alive, fossilized, mineralized or dormant is unknown. Abiotic explanations cannot be ruled out and it cannot be stated with absolute certainty they are biological.
... Specifically, and as reviewed by Joseph (2021), algae secrete calcium and lichens and fungi produce calcium oxalate that "weathers" and dissolves minerals and metals which are utilized as nutrients and are stored on cellular surfaces. Terrestrial species are iron-rich and precipitate hematite which makes these fungi and lichens ideal bioindicators of metal and minerals; whereas on Mars they are likely supersaturated with these and other minerals and metals as reflected by spectral data. ...
Article
Full-text available
We present over 200 photographs that as a collective totality proves there is life on Mars. These include photos of Martian algae, microbial mats, stromatolites, lichens, fungi, fungus, fossils, tubular organisms; and sequential images documenting that Martian organisms are growing out of the ground, increasing in size, moving to new locations; and that fungi are engaging in reproductive behavior by shedding spores that produce embryonic fungus. This conclusive evidence represents the collective investigative efforts of several teams of scientific experts, 24 scientists in total, the names of whom are listed in the publications cited in the Reference section; each article discussing and providing scholarly references for the conclusions reached. This document consists almost entirely of photos and is arranged in 15 sections: (1) Algae and Microbial Mats; (2) Stromatolites; (3) Algae & Lichen-Algae; (4) Algae Fruiting Bodies and Networks of Calcium Oxalate; (5) Dimpled Lichens & Algae Fruiting Bodies; (6) Photosynthesis and Gas Bubbles; (7) Vast Colonies of Rock-Dwelling Lichens; (8) Fungal Puffballs (vs the Hematite Hoax); (9) Fungus, Spores, Reproduction, Embryonic Fungi; (10) Colonies Of Arctic Algae, Fungus, Mold, Lichens; (11) Growth, Movement, Behavior; (12) Fungus and Bacteria Growth on the Rovers; (13) Lichen Puffball Calcium Oxalate Fossils; (14) Fossils: Algae, Tube Worms, “Ediacarans,” Metazoans; (15) Tube Worms or Tubular Fungi? We conclude there is life on Mars.
... Should terrestrial organisms be considered a biological analog for Martian organisms? It has been theorized that Martian life forms may utilize iron and radiation for their metabolic needs with iron promoting pigmentation and melanin production that protects against and absorbs radiation (Joseph 2021). Would Martian organisms feed on nutrients from Earth? Conversely was the LR's radioactive carbon a food source? ...
Article
Full-text available
The validity of the 1976 Mars Viking LR biology experiments have been disputed. Microorganisms, fungi, lichens, algae, form spores, resist sterilization, survive direct exposure to space and survive long term exposure to Mars simulated environments. NASA has never been able to completely sterilize equipment sent to Mars. If the LR experiments detected biological activity, we should ask: Did the Viking LR experiments detect life from Mars or bacterial hitchhikers; i.e. life from Earth? And what are the implications for NASA's Sample Return Program? Will NASA retrieve from Mars bacteria they sent from Earth?
... However, life on Mars did not cease to evolve ) and creatures with multiple legs and eyes have been When Mars experienced this cosmic calamity and mass extinction is unknown, but may have taken place around 800 million years ago ) when the inner solar system and the Earth-Moon was bombarded by an armada of meteors (Tanaka et al. 2020). This is not to rule out the possibility that Mars became a failed Earth billions of years ago, or in the last 35,000 years as there are eye-witness accounts detailing that Mars was struck by a celestial object creating a spear-like wound in the belly of the planet as described in Homer's the Iliad; and the evidence of which is the spear-like canyon, Valles Marineris, across the "belly" of the Red Planet that may have been carved by a moonsized comet Regardless of when these cataclysmic events took place, life on Mars was not completely eradicated as living algae, fungi, and lichens have been identified (Armstrong 2021;Dass, 2017;Joseph 2006Joseph , 2014Joseph , 2016Joseph , 2021Krupa 2017;Latif et al 2021). Moreover, sequential photographs, from the rovers Opportunity and Curiosity, prove that these and other organisms grow, emerge from the surface, multiply, move to different locations, and have even contaminated and colonized the rovers ). ...
Article
Full-text available
Reviewed in this report: It took a minimum of 7 billion years of genetic duplicative events for the first gene to become a life sustaining genome; i.e. at least 2.4 billion years before Earth was formed. Potentially habitable planets have been identified at least 5 billion years older than Earth. Microfossils have been found in meteors older than this solar system including evidence of evolutionary progression leading to corals and sponges. There is evidence of life, fossils and evolution on Mars paralleling Earth leading up to the Cambrian Explosion. The implications are: life on Earth-like planets evolves in patterns similar to life on Earth. Megastructures have been observed orbiting our own and distant suns. For thousands of years there have been reports of flying craft (“Unusual Aerial Phenomena”). According to a report by the U.S.A Office of the Director of National Intelligence these “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” engage in maneuvers at hypersonic speeds that are completely beyond our technological capabilities or understanding. The implications are that Earth and its inhabitants are under surveillance. It is concluded that intelligent life and technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations have evolved in this galaxy on numerous Earth-like worlds, including those billions of years older than our own.
Article
Full-text available
Life-bearing meteors, asteroids, comets and frozen bodies of water which had been ejected from Mars or other planets via bolide impact may have caused the Cambrian Explosion of life on Earth 540 million years ago. Reviewed in support of this theory are historical and worldwide reports of blood, gore, flesh and a variety of organisms raining from clear skies on warm days along with freezing rains and ice and sometimes embedded in ice and which a 2008 report in the International Journal of Astrobiology linked to comets and celestial events. Numerous reports have documented, within meteors, fossilized organisms resembling fungi, algae, and diatoms. In 1880 specimens resembling fossilized crinoids, corals and sponges were identified within an assemblage of meteorites that had fallen to Earth and investigators speculated that evolution may have occurred in a similar fashion on other planets. Russian scientists have reported that mosquito larvae, the majority of seeds from a variety of plants, and fish eggs and embryos from crustaceans develop and reproduce normally after 7 to 13 months exposure to space outside the ISS and could travel to and from Earth and Mars and survive. Investigators have identified specimens on Mars that resemble stromatolites, bacterial mats, algae, fungi, and lichens, and fossils resembling tube worms, Ediacarans, Metazoans and other organisms including those with eyes and multiple legs. McKay speculated that evolution may have taken place more rapidly on Mars and experienced a "Cambrian Explosion" in advance of Earth. Eight hundred million years ago an armada of asteroids, comets and meteors more numerous and several times more powerful than the Chicxulub impact, invaded the inner solar system and struck the Earth-Moon system. It is highly probable Mars was also struck and massive amounts of life-bearing debris was cast into space. Genetic studies indicate the first metazoans appeared on Earth 750 to 800 million years ago soon after this impacting event. Given the relatively sudden "explosive" appearance of complex life with bones, brains, and modern eyes, as well as those that were bizarre and quickly became extinct, and given there are no antecedent intermediate forms and that previous life forms consisted of only 11 cell types prior to the Cambrian Explosion, the evidence, in total, supports the theory that life on other planets and Mars may have been transported to Earth 800 million years ago and contributed to the Cambrian Explosion.
Article
Full-text available
The discovery and subsequent investigations of atmospheric oxygen on Mars are reviewed. Free oxygen is a biomarker produced by photosynthesizing organisms. Oxygen is reactive and on Mars may be destroyed in 10 years and is continually replenished. Diurnal and spring/summer increases in oxygen have been documented, and these variations parallel biologically induced fluctuations on Earth. Data from the Viking biological experiments also support active biology, though these results have been disputed. Although there is no conclusive proof of current or past life on Mars, organic matter has been detected and specimens resembling green algae / cyanobacteria, lichens, stromatolites, and open apertures and fenestrae for the venting of oxygen produced via photosynthesis have been observed. These life-like specimens include thousands of lichen-mushroom-shaped structures with thin stems, attached to rocks, topped by bulbous caps, and oriented skyward similar to photosynthesizing organisms. If some of these specimens are fossilized is unknown. However the evidence of so many different types of life-like specimens make it almost indisputable that there is life on Mars. The overall body of evidence indicates are likely producing and replenishing atmospheric oxygen. Abiogenic processes might also contribute to oxygenation via sublimation and seasonal melting of subglacial water-ice deposits coupled with UV splitting of water molecules; a process of abiogenic photosynthesis that could have significantly depleted oceans of water and subsurface ice over the last 4.5 billion years; and, which would have provided moisture to these Martian organisms and their ancestors.
Article
Full-text available
Billions of years ago, the Northern Hemisphere of Mars may have been covered by at least one ocean and thousands of lakes and rivers. These findings, based initially on telescopic observations and images by the Mariner and Viking missions, led investigators to hypothesize that stromatolite fashioning cyanobacteria may have proliferated in the surface waters, and life may have been successfully transferred between Earth and Mars via tons of debris ejected into the space following bolide impact. Studies conducted by NASA's robotic rovers also indicate that Mars was wet and habitable and may have been inhabited in the ancient past. It has been hypothesized that Mars subsequently lost its magnetic field, oceans, and atmosphere when bolides negatively impacted its geodynamo and that the remnants of the Martian seas began to evaporate and became frozen beneath the surface. As reviewed here, twenty-five investigators have published evidence of Martian sedimentary structures that resemble microbial mats and stromatolites, which may have been constructed billions of years ago on ancient lake shores and in receding bodies of water, although if these formations are abiotic or biotic is unknown. These findings parallel the construction of the first stromatolites on Earth. The evidence reviewed here does not prove but supports the hypothesis that ancient Mars had oceans (as well as lakes) and was habitable and inhabited, and life may have been transferred between Earth and Mars billions of years ago due to powerful solar winds and life-bearing ejecta propelled into the space following the bolide impact.
Article
Full-text available
The finding of life on Mars, existing now or in the past, will certainly be one of the greatest adventures in the history of mankind. Further arguments are provided, strengthening an earlier claim, that among mineral bodies (dubbed "newberries"), imaged by the MER Opportunity in deposits of Late Noachian age (~3.8 to 3.6 Ga) exposed at the rim of Endeavour Crater (Matijevic Formation) objects occur that resemble fossils of Terran unicellular and colonial microalgae. The previously claimed algal affinities of these fossil objects is now supported by examples of "newberries" showing the presence of internal structures highly similar to daughter colonie characteristic for Terran volvocalean algae and cell-like objects enclosing objects reminiscent of chloroplasts characteristic for modern and fossil unicellular green and yellow green algae. A fluffy layer of stagnant water body is postulated as sedimentary environment promoting early post mortem silicification (Fe 3+ smectite) of the microalgae-like biota.
Article
Full-text available
The unicellular Chroococcidiopsis is extremely resistant to desiccation, UV-irradiation, salt toxicity and high temperature. It requires only low light intensities for growth, and is protected against destruction from high energy UV-light by pigments such as carotenoids and scytonemin. Cyanobacteria, such as Chroococcidiopsis, have minimal nutrient requirements and can meet their nitrogen demand by means of the conversion of the atmospheric dinitrogen molecule to ammonium ions (nitrogen fixation). Water is the electron donor for photosynthesis, but can possibly be replaced by molecular hydrogen gas. A member of the genus Chroococcidiopsis is likely the best organism for exploring the potential for life on Mars. For this goal to be achieved, however, many strains exist on Earth that still must be explored to find the best suited one.
Technical Report
Full-text available
Throughout its mission at Eagle Crater, Meridiani Planum, the rover Opportunity photographed thousands of mushroom-lichen-like formations with thin stalks and spherical caps, clustered together in colonies attached to and jutting outward from the tops and sides of rocks. Those on top-sides were often collectively oriented, via their caps and stalks, in a similar upward-angled direction as is typical of photosynthesizing organisms. The detection of seasonal increases and replenishment of Martian atmospheric oxygen supports this latter interpretation and parallels seasonal photosynthetic activity and biologically-induced oxygen fluctuations on Earth. Twelve "puffball" fungal-shaped Meridiani Planum spherical specimens were also photographed emerging from beneath the soil and an additional eleven increased in size over a three-day period in the absence of winds which may have contributed to these observations. Growth and the collective skyward orientation of these lichen and fungus-like specimens are indications of behavioral biology; though it is impossible to determine if they are alive without direct examination. Reports claiming these Eagle Crater spheres consist of hematite are reviewed and found to be based on inference as the instruments employed were not hematite specific. The hematite-research group targeted oblong rocks which were mischaracterized as spheres, and selectively eliminated spectra from panoramic images until what remained was interpreted to resemble spectral signatures of terrestrial hematite photographed in a laboratory, when it was a "poor fit." The Eagle Crater environment was never conducive to creating hematite and the spherical hematite hypothesis is refuted. By contrast, lichens and fungi survive in Mars-like analog environments. There are no abiogenic processes that can explain the mushroom-morphology, size, colors and orientation and growth of, and there are no terrestrial geological formations which resemble these mushroom-lichen-shaped specimens. Although the authors have not proven these are living organisms, the evidence supports the hypothesis that mushrooms, algae, lichens, fungi, and related organisms may have colonized the Red Planet and may be engaged in photosynthetic activity and oxygen production on Mars.
Article
Full-text available
Gale Crater was an ancient Martian lake that has periodically filled with water and which may still provide a watery environment conducive to the proliferation and fossilization of a wide range of organisms, especially algae. To test this hypothesis and to survey the Martian landscape, over 3,000 photographs from NASA's rover Curiosity Gale Crater image depository were examined by a team of established experts in astrobiology, astrophysics, biophysics, geobiology, microbiology, lichenology, phycology, botany, and mycology. As presented in this report, specimens resembling terrestrial algae, lichens, microbial mats, stromatolites, ooids, tubular-shaped formations, and mineralized fossils of metazoans and calcium-carbonate encrusted cyanobacteria were observed and tentatively identified. Forty-five photos of putative biological specimens are presented. The authors were unable to precisely determine if these specimens are biological or consist of Martian minerals and salt formations that mimic biology. Therefore, a review of Martian minerals and mineralization was conducted and the possibility these formations may be abiogenic is discussed. It is concluded that the overall pattern of evidence is mutually related and that specimens resembling algae-like and other organisms may have colonized the Gale Crater, beginning billions of years ago. That some or most of these specimens may be abiotic, cannot be ruled out. Additional investigation targeting features similar to these should be a priority of future studies devoted to the search for current and past life on Mars.
Article
Full-text available
During the Noachian period, 4.1-3.7 Gys ago, the Martian environment was moderately similar to the one on present Earth. Liquid water was widespread in a neutral environment, volcanic activity and heat flow more vigorous, and atmospheric pressure and temperature were higher than today. These conditions may have favoured the spread of life on the surface of Mars. The recognition that different planets and moons share rocky material cast in space by meteoroid impact entails that life creation is not necessary for each single planetary body, but could travel through the Solar system on board of rock fragments. Studies conducted on the past forms of Martian life have already highlighted possible positive matches with microbialite-like structures, referable to the geo-environmental conditions in the Noachian and Hesperian. However, by necessity, these studies are on predominantly micro and meso-scopic scale structures and doubts arise as to their attribution to the biogenic world. We suggest that in the identification of Martian life, we are currently in a position similar to the one of Kalkowsky who in 1908, based solely on morphological and sedimentological arguments, hypothesized the (now accepted) view of the biotic origin of stromatolites. Our analysis of thousands of images from Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity has provided a selection of images of ring-shaped, domal and coniform macrostructures that resemble terrestrial microbialites such as the ring-shaped stromatolites of Lake Thetis, and stacked cones reminiscent of the group of terrestrial Conophyton . Notably, the latter were detected by Curiosity in the mudstone known as ‘Sheepbed’, the same outcrop where past organic molecules have been detected and where the occurrence of microbial-induced sedimentary structures (MISS) and of many more microbialitic micro, meso and macrostructures has already been hypothesized. Some of the structures discussed in this work are so complex that alternative biological hypotheses can be formulated as possible algae. Alternate, non-abiotic explanations are examined but we find difficult to explain some of such structures in the context of normal sedimentary processes, both syngenetic or epigenetic.
Article
Full-text available
New images from Mars rover Curiosity display millimetric, elongate stick- like structures in the fluvio-lacustrine deposits of Vera Rubin Ridge, the depositional environment of which has been previously acknowledged as habitable. Morphology, size and topology of the structures are yet incompletely known and their biogenicity remains untested. Here we provide the first quantitative description of the Vera Rubin Ridge structures, showing that ichnofossils, i.e., the product of life-substrate interactions, are among their closest morphological analogues. Crystal growth and sedimentary cracking are plausible non-biological genetic processes for the structures, although crystals, desiccation and syneresis cracks do not typically present all the morphological and topological features of the Vera Rubin Ridge structures. Morphological analogy does not necessarily imply biogenicity but, given that none of the available observations falsifies the ichnofossil hypothesis, Vera Rubin Ridge and its sedimentary features are here recognized as a privileged target for astrobiological research.
Article
The present paper deals with Bovista species diversity in Russia. Morphological features of the genus are presented as well as geographical distribution in Russia and globally. We present a phylogenetic tree and the correlation of molecular data and morphology is discussed. An identification key for 16 species known in Russia from herbarium collections is provided as well as SEM and LM images of basidiospores and capillitium of these species. According to morphological and genetic data three taxa are probably undescribed. We need additional collections for these species in order to describe them as new. The variability of the polymorphic Bovista aestivalis and some other species is discussed too.