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Tube Worm-Like Structures, Hematite, and Hydrothermal Vents on Mars: Support for, and Opposition to Joseph et al.


Abstract and Figures

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.
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Journal of Astrobiology
Tube Worm-Like Structures, Hematite, and Hydrothermal Vents on
Mars: Support for, and Opposition to Joseph et al.
1,*Aravinda Ravibhanu Suamanarathna, 2MajdaAouititen,
3Abdelouahed Lagnaoui,
1,2,3Department of Research & Innovation - South Asian Astrobiology & Earth Sciences Research Unit of Eco Astronomy Sri
Lanka, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
2Beijing Forestry University School of Ecology and Nature Conservation, Beijing, China.
3Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory in Sciences, Education and Training, Higher School of Education and Training
Berrechid (ESEFB), Hassan First University, Route de Casablanca Km 3.5, BP 539, 26100 Berrechid,
Grand-Casablanca, Morocco.
Journal of Astrobiology, Vol 10, 38-62, Published 11/18/2021
Editors-in-Chief: K. Wołowski, G. Bianciardi, R. del Gaudio
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.
Key Words: Tube Worms, Hydrothermal Vents, Evolution, Life on Mars, Mineralization, Chemistry,
Fossils, Gale Crater, Endurance Crater, Burns Formation, Fossils
*Corresponding email: a
1. Tube Worms and the Evolution of Life on Mars?
A number of investigators have discussed the extreme environments of Mars, the limitations on
habitability, and the possibility various organisms could have inhabited the Red Planet in the recent or
ancient past (Cockell et al., 2005; Osman et al., 2008; Mahaney & Dohm, 2010; Sanchez et al., 2012;
Sumanarathna, 2015, 2018; Selbman et al., 2015; Pacelli et al., 2016; Schuerger et al., 2017). It is
believed that lack of liquid water, the extremely cold conditions that prevail in the winter and at night,
and the high levels of radiation that bombard the surface would have a profoundly negative impact on the
habitability of modern-day Mars (Dartnell, 2010). Joseph and colleagues (2020a,b, 2021c,d; Armstrong
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2021a; Latif et al. 2021) however, have presented evidence of formations and structures on Mars they
argue resemble living algae, fungi, and lichens that adapted to these harsh conditions and evolved the
ability to employ radiation as a nutrient and energy source (Joseph 2021). Joseph and colleagues have
hypothesized that the high levels of iron promote the production of melanin that protects organisms from
radiation, and that high levels of magnetization within craters located in the equator and southern
hemisphere also provides a protective shield thus promoting habitability and accounting for the
observation of what may be fungi, lichens, and algae within the Eagle and Gale Craters (Joseph et al.
2020a; 2021b). Endurance Crater is also located in the equatorial region and like Gale Crater long ago
hosted lakes that may have been heated by thermal vents that were colonized by tube worms and
associated bacteria and marine organisms (Armstrong 2021b; Joseph et al. 2020a, 2021a,b).
What may be fossilized tube worms were first observed by DiGregorio (2018) within the ancient
lake beds of Gale Crater. Comparative morphological analysis of these specimens has supported the tube
worm hypothesis (Armstrong 2021a; Baucon et al 2020; Joseph et al. 2020b; 2021b). Joseph et al.
(2021a,b) also observed numerous tubular specimens adjacent to vents and holes on the surface of
Endurance Crater, in the same general vicinity in which spherical formations have also been observed
(Christensen et al., 2004; Squyres & Knoll 2005). Although Joseph and colleagues (2020a, 2021c;
Joseph 2016, 2021; Armstrong 2021b; Dass 2017) have argued that these spheres are fungal puffballs and
have no resemblance to hematite, Christensen et al. (2004), Squyres et al. (2004) and Weitz et al., (2004)
argue that the 1mm to 4mm sized spherules, dubbed "blueberries" consist of hematite.
Hematite is an iron-oxide mineral. Because, on Earth, the gray crystalline variety forms mostly in
association with hot liquid water this had led the Opportunity team to hypothesize that Eagle and
Endurance Craters may have long ago been filled with water heated by hydrothermal vents (Squyres et al,
2004. Squyres & Knoll 2005). The hematite hypothesis, therefore, supports the findings of what may be
fossilized tube worms that long ago dwelled in briny lakes of water heated by thermal vents; whereas
Joseph (2014, 2016, 2021) and colleagues (Joseph et al. 2021c; Armstrong 2021b; Dass 2017) argument
in favor of fungal puffballs does not.
The hydrothermal vent hypothesis is also supported by the mineralogy and high levels of sulfur
detected in outcrops of Endurance crater, in the same are where tubular specimens have been observed in
close proximity to what may be vents on the surface (Joseph et al. 2020a). For example, based on the
analysis via mineralogy at Meridiani Planum from the Mini-TES experiment on the Opportunity Rover
high concentration of sulfur in the form of calcium and magnesium sulfates have been detected, as well
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as arekieserite, sulfate anhydrate, bassanite, hexahydrite, epsomite, and gypsum. Salts, such as halite,
bischofite, antarcticite, bloedite, vanthoffite, or gluberite may also be present (Christensen et al., 2004).
As pointed out by Joseph et al. (2021) many of these minerals including salts and sulfur are also found in
close proximity to hydrothermal vents. The waters in these lakes would also be salty; and salty brines are
a favored habit of tube worms.
The abundance of these minerals, including hematite, raises two possibilities as to what may or
may not be tube worms. Joseph et al. (2021a) believe these tubes are mineralized fossils. However, it is
also possible that what these scientists believed to be fossilized tube worms and crustaceans, may consist
entirely of minerals and may be pseudo-fossils. It is true, however, that Joseph et al. (2020, 2021b).
Baucon et al. (2020) and Armstrong (2021) have also presented statistical evidence which supports a
biological interpretation. If the statistical findings and the observations of what may be fossilized tube
worms and crustaceans are accepted as valid, this would indicate that life must have evolved on Mars.
That Mars has been inhabited and that life evolved is consistent with petrological data and eco astronomy
mechanics (Sumanarathna, 2018) and supported by geochemical analysis of mineralized substrates and
findings from Martian meteorite ALH 84001; i.e. that microbial life may have been proliferating on Mars
between 3000 Myr to 4200 Myr (McKay et al., 1996, 2009; Thomas-Keprta et al., 2009; Macey et al.,
2020). A number of investigators also agree that ancient Mars was habitable and harbored life (Squyres &
Knoll, 2006; Ehlmann et al., 2011; Vago et al., 2017) and have hypothesized that prokaryotic and
eukaryotic organisms may have become fossilized (Squyres et al., 2004; Grotzinger et al., 2014, 2015).
The observation of what may be fossilized algae (Bianciardi et al. 2021; Kaźmierczak 2016, 2020),
fossilized microbialites and stromatolites (Bianciardi et al. 2014; Joseph et al. 2020b; Elewa 2021),
fossilized tube worms in Gale and Endeavor Crater sediments (Armstrong, 2021a, Baucon et al. 2020;
DiGregorio, 2018; Joseph et al., 2020a, 2021ab) and what appear to be an assemblage of metazoan fossils
discovered in Gale Crater, support the hypothesis life evolved on Mars.
2. Source Data: Mineralogy and Tubular Specimens
The evidence pro and con in support of the evolutionary hypothesis is presented in a series of
Tables and Figures. Petrological data and analysis is also reviewed and found to be supportive of the
habitability hypothesis. Mineralogical conditions in Meridiani Planum is also summarized and a
hypothetical model of the biomineralization process is examined.
Specifically, Tables 1 and 3, presents a summary of the mineralogy and petrology as based on
outcrop spectra and ex-ray diffraction, whereas Table 2 summarizes the chemical composition. The
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geology and stratigraphy of the Burns formation which extends from Eagle to Endurance to Endeavor
Craters is summarized in Table 4 and depicted in Figure 1. The outcrops of the Burns formation has the
chemistry and mineralogy consistent with a large body of briny water that was heated by thermal vents. It
is within this same vicinity where what may be fungi, lichens, fungal puffballs, spherical hematite, and
fossilized tube worms have been observed. The tube worm hypothesis is supported by the assemblage of
tubular specimens discovered by Joseph et al., (2021ab), the comparative statistical analysis performed
by Armstrong (2021a) and Figure 2 which compares these tubular formations with those observed in Gale
Crater (see also Figure 3) and tube worms on Earth (see also Figures 4, 5, 6, 7). Figure 8 depicts spherical
formations that have been identified as fungal puffballs vs spherical hematite.
3. Figures, Tables, Analysis
Table 1: Analysis of microscopic images of non-linearized full frame EDR of Sols 177-199-299 and
1905 Mineralogy and Petrology. Numerical deconvolution results for Mini-TES outcrop spectra. The
volume abundances listed have been rounded to the nearest 5% from the values from the deconvolution
model (Christensen et al., 2004).
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Table 2: Chemical composition and proportion of XRD amorphous component in Rocknest Portage from
APXS and CheMin data(Blake et al., 2013).
Table 3: Mineralogy of Rocknest soil [CheMin x-ray diffraction (XRD)]and normative mineralogies of
basaltic materials from Gusev Crater and of martian meteorites (Blake et al., 2013).
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Table 4a: Bulk and residual compositions (weight %) for 20 Burn formations RATed targets and residual
compositions (Cino et al 2016).
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Table 4b: Bulk and residual compositions (weight %) for 20 Burn formations RATed targets and residual
compositions (Cino et al 2016).
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Figure 1: Sample locations (a & c) and the stratigraphy (b) of the Burns formation in the vicinity of
Eagle crater and Endurance crater, Meridiani Planum, Mars (adapted from Grotzinger et al., 2005). Base
map taken from MRO HiRISE image PSP_005423_1780_RED. The location of Eagle crater, the landing
site (c), is 1.9462 °S and 354.4734 °E relative to the International Astronomical Union 20 0 0 body-
centered coordinate frame (Squyres et al., 2006; Cino et al.,2016). Joseph and colleagues (2021a,b)
identified tubular formations within Endurance Crater. Squyres et al., (2004) hypothesized that this area
once hosted a large briny body of water, and was habitable in the ancient past.
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Figure 2: (Left). Joseph et al. (2021a,b) discovered these tubular specimens within Endurance Crater,
that resemble (Right) terrestrial tube worms (D,E,G) and tubular fossils observed in Gale Crater (F).
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Figure 2 Analysis: Joseph et al. (2021a,b) discovered these tubular specimens within Endurance
Crater and hypothesized these are tube worms that had been dwelling within hydrothermal vents when
the cater was filled with water. Microscopic images of Non-linearized Full frame EDR ©NASA | Stitcher
and assembling ©Eco Astronomy Inc. (Right) | Julie, 1985; Sun j et al., 2012; Kupriyanova et al., 2015;
Baucon et al., 2020). A. Most probably borehole and type of tube worm opercula at Endurance Crater.
Comparing sizing via pictorial matrix and extrema conditions, it can be like Spirobranchus and
Coprinisphaera combination of process of borrowing. Coprinisphaera is one of the most common trace
fossils in the Tertiary palaeosols of South America, and it was appropriately one of the first recorded
insect trace fossils and considered as nests of dung-beetles or scarabs (Frenguelli 1938; Roselli 1939).
Coprinisphaera are mostly related to the presence and position of a small chamber (interpreted as the
original egg chamber) with respect to a large chamber (provision chamber) and emergence hole. We note
that the occurrence of at least 2 circular to subcircular holes, or paraboloid external pits in the walls of
chamber-like could be compared with the ichnogenus Tombownichnus (Mikulas and Genise 2003). The
structure described herein consists of isolated, pear-shaped structure. it is composed of two clustered
subspherical chamber-like; large main chamber-like and a secondary small one (about 1/3 of the main
chamber-like) located in the upper protuberance of the structure. Chamber-like structure is surrounded by
a discrete constructed wall, with at least two holes; one in the centre and second one in the margin. The
filling of both spheres could not be examined, but it looks a passively filled chamber. This pear-shaped
structure presents the diagnosis external morphological features of the ichnogenus Coprinisphaera (Sauer
1955. Thus, four ichnospecies of Coprinisphaera show the pear-shaped morphology, which are:
Coprinisphaera akatanka (Cantil et al., 2013), Coprinisphaera cotiae (Sánchez and Genise 2015),
Coprinisphaera lazai (Sánchez et al., 2013), Coprinisphaera tonnii (Laza 2006). C. akatanka, and C.
tonnii are internally composed of a main spherical chamber separated from a secondary, smaller one.
However, in C. akatanka, both spherical chambers are clearly distinguishable by an external deep neck,
whereas in C. tonnii, this constriction is absent showing a pear-shaped external aspect. In addition, C.
akatanka has a thin wall in contrast to the thicker one of C. tonnii. C. cotiae differs from the other
ichnospecies by the elongated protuberance that is internally crossed by a conduit that ends in a very tiny
pore (Laza 2006; Cantil et al. 2013; Sánchez et al. 2013). The internal features could be examined;
therefore, we can tentatively compare these structures with the ichnogenus Coprinisphaera (Sauer 1955).
B1 - Most probably survival or feeding trace effected by micro boring or borrows. Sometimes
possible to occur via living mood habitat of tubular specimen and not compulsory to fossilized stage as a
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stabilize formation. B2 A tubular structure presented is approximately similar sizing to trace. B3 - Rich
sulfates micro chimney mound as a part of hydrothermal vent (Colín-García M, 2016). C. Most probably
like unaltered tubular structured of worm which can be primitively adopt via extreme of paleo
hydrothermal vent at Endurance Crater, Mars (H Julie et al., 1985; Kuhn et al., 2003; Christensen et al.,
2004; M Thomas et al., 2005; Sun j et al., 2012; Blake et al., 2013; Kupriyanova et al., 2015; Magdalena
et al., 2019). D. Opercula of fixed specimens, AM W.21678 ( Kupriyanova et al., 2015). E1, E2. Opercula
of Spirobranchus dennisdevaneyi (H Julie et al., 1985). F. This is Sol 1905, Outcrop imaged by rover
Curiosity using MAHLI at Vera Rubin Ridge, Mars presented mold likes Ichno fossils. (Baucon et al.,
2020; Joseph et al., 2020a, 2021a,b). The structure reported here is simple flattened, branched, oblong, to
sub rectangular in cross section. This structure consists of a Hypichnial semi-relief zigzag meanders,
associated with short horizontal branched twig-like segments. Joined points of segments start from the
middle part of the tube not from the V-point of the zigzag. With of the tube-structure is not the same
along the specimen. This whole zigzag morphology shows similarities with the ichnospecies Belorhaphe
zickzack (Heer, 1877), but the subhorizontal, zigzag, subcylindrical trail froked at each angle are typical
features of the ichnogenus Treptichnus (Miller, 1889). The zigzag morphology in ichnology indicates a
deposit-feeding or a farming and trapping life strategy (Rindsberg and Kopaska-Merkel, 2005). The
deposit-feeding strategy consists of the shifting from from one segment to the next as it feeds on the
sediment, maintaining probably the last segment as a bioirrigated open hole, while in the trapping
strategy, the open segments play the role of a trap to catch meiofauna, or playing the role a farm for
microbes that are periodically scraped from the walls (Rindsberg and Kopaska-Merkel, 2005). The
structure reported herein could be a piece of evidence of the potential presence of organism able to
migrate laterally and perhaps vertically to reach food resources. G. Sp. corrugatus, live animals removed
from their tubes, stn. G246 SAM and AM W.43887 respectively (Kupriyanova et al., 2015).
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Figure 3: Tubular like structures at Vera Rubin Ridge, and pictorial data points employed by Baucon et
al., (2020).
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Figure 3 Analysis: Tubular like structures at Vera Rubin Ridge, Mars and processing to Length
analysis map. (Baucon et al., 2020). 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., 2020a, 2021). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.
The odd tubular structures that Curiosity has been investigating lately were probably formed by
crystal growth that can be suspected. Considering the mineralogical context (Table 2,3,4); it is likely
minerals contributed to the extreme fossilized process (Christensen et al., 2004; Blake et al., 2013;
Baucon et al., 2020). 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).
Figure 4: Tube worms from Earth: Eoalvinellodes annulatus, Silurian, Yaman Kasy, Russia. AC,
NHMUK OR1388a, NHMUK VF52 and NHMUK VF53, respectively, hand specimens of gently curving
tubes with folded fabric-like tube wall texture. D, E, UL YKB1, transverse sections of tubes showing
thick walls with thick, possibly multi-layered walls. F, UL YKB1, detail of tube wall in transverse section
showing preservation by colloform pyrite many layers thick. Scale bars: A, B =2mm | C =1mm D & E=
m ; F= 100
m. (Sun j et al., 2012; Magdalena et al., 2019).
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Figure 5: Tube worms and worm tubes from Earth: Morphology of tubes made by annelid lineages
occurring at modern hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. A, disorganized tubes of Alvinella spp.
(Alvinellidae). B, agglutinated tube of Mesochaetopterus taylori (Chaetopteridae). C, agglutinated
Sabellidae tube. D, branched tube of Phyllochaetopterus claparedii (Chaetopteridae). E, segmented tubes
of Spiochaetopterus costarum (Chaetopteridae). F, Phyllochaetopterus polus (Chaetopteridae) tubes
bearing short collars and wrinkled-fabric ornamentation. G, collared Serpulidae tubes (likely Serpula
narconensis). H, collared tubes of Serpula vermicularis (Serpulidae). I, large tube of the vestimentiferan
Riftia pachyptila (Siboglinidae). Scale bars: A, B =2mm | C =1mm D & E= 500
m ; F= 100
m. (Sun al., presented mold likes Ichno fossils. (Baucon et al., 2020; Joseph et al., 2020a, 2021a).
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Figure 6: Tube worms and worm tubes from Earth: Tubes from the Turonian of Cyprus. AC, Troodos
collared tubes’; A, B, Kambia 4061 and Memi 212b2, respectively, sinuous worm tubes with collars; C,
Kambia 401b, worm tube with collar attached at an oblique angle. D, E, Troodos wrinkled tubes’,
Kapedhes 2101 and 204b, respectively, worm tubes bearing longitudinal and transverse wrinkles. F, G,
Troodos attached tubes’, Memi 2021 and Kinousa 2023, respectively, sinuous tubes that appear attached
to a surface, tubes in F bearing fine parallel transverse wrinkles. Scale bars: AD, F,G = 1 mm; E = 0. 5
mm. (Sun J et al., 2012; Magdalena et al., 2019).
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Figure 7: Tube worm in Earth as an analog: A hypothetical model of the compartmental crystal
formation in the body of the tube worm (Chan, 2015).
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Figure 8: Spherical formations that have been identified as hematite spheres, tektites, lapilli, and fungal
puffballs. Photographed on a rocky outcrop at Eagle Crater (NASA/JPL/Cornell/USGS 2008).
Figure 8 Analysis: Spherical specimens upon the surface were photographed by the rover
Opportunity which Squyres et al., (2004) and Christianson (2004) identified as spherical hematite. Other
investigators have disputed this interpretation and suggested these spheres may include tektites, lapili,
soil concretions (Robbins, 2021) and spherical puffballs (Armstrong, 2021a; Dass, 2017; Joseph et al.
2020a,b,, 2021c; Joseph 2014, 2016, 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).
The shape of spherules is presented in Figure 8, can also be result of weathering erosion and
deposition. There is also evidence of a Spirobranchus sp and Coprinisphaera sp. process of borrowing of
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structural formation like a “berries” as a part of habitat? The same may be true of some of the tubular
specimens identified by Joseph et al. (2021). The spheres and the tubular structures may be contaminated
or consist of anhydrite, kieserite, hexahydrite, bischofite, vanthoffite like minerals as a primary formation
and includes CaO, MgO (Tables 2 & 4). However, the tubular formations are completely different from
what may be hematite spherules. Moreover, whereas many of these minerals are associated with the
biological activity of tube worms that have colonized hydrothermal vents, hematite is a major iron-
bearing element, which, however, are also formed in heated pools of water (Misra et al., 2018). If the
spheres are hematite, they support the hypothesis that Eagle and Endeavor Crater hosted lakes of water
that were heated by hydrothermal vents that may have been colonized by tube worms.
4. Discussion: Mineralogy, Chemistry, Hydrothermal Vents, Tube Worm Fossils on Mars
Baucon et al., (2017) have critically reviewed the concepts of ichnological fossils and the tools
necessary for the search for extra-terrestrial life, highlighting a new direction of astrobiological research.
They argued that these and other biogenic-like structures may serve as biosignatures for past and present
extra-terrestrials life. Subsequently, following the observation of what may be tubular fossils in Gale
Crater by DiGregorio (2018), Baucon et al., (2020), Joseph et al. (2020a, 2021b) and Armstrong (2021a)
performed complex comparative analysis of these specimens and those of Earth and concluded they were
similar to terrestrial fossils. Moreover, Joseph et al. (2021a) summarized and documented that the
mineralogy and chemistry of Endurance Crater and its outcrops, is similar and in many respects identical
to that of terrestrial hydrothermal vents that have been colonized by tube worms and their symbiotes.
Therefore, these are likely tube worms that have been mineralized and fossilized.
CheMin data (Tables 2-4) at Meridiani Planum, shows concentration mean value abundancy of
associate sulfur and hematite is approximately 49.2% from 13 numbered samples (Christensen et al.,
2004). Therefore, the conditions in Meridiani Planum are ideal for the preservation of micro fossils via
association of sulfurization and ionization and synchronizing with SiO2(45.7) 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. Joseph et al. (2021) has suggested
that the tubular formations are in fact tube worms and worm tubes, and that the former may be “dormant”
“mineralized” or “pickled” by their salty briny watery environment. Based on the petrological analysis
and summation of minerals reported here, we concur that Endurance crater was habitable and inhabited
by tubular organisms that became mineralized and fossilized. Further, as based on Table1, 2 & 4
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(Ulyanova et al., 2015), the high concentration of sulfur in the form of calcium and magnesium sulfates
and given the history of Endeavor crater, we hypothesize that tube worms flourished and became
fossilized in the ancient past; and we note the resemblance to fossil worm tubes of Cretaceous age
preserved in the Bayda massive sulfide deposit of the Samail ophiolite, Oman (Haymon, 1984;
McNamara ME, 2016). The substates and crustose-like rocks in this area are also similar to those of Earth
and typical of tube-worm fossilized strata. (Wilson & Jones, 1983).
If there is and/or was life on Mars, there should be substantial evidence of organics. Unfortunately,
destruction or transformation of organic compounds may occur in the near-surface environment of Mars
either by oxidants present in the regolith that can permeate the subsurface (Biemann et al., 1977;
Kounaves et al., 2014) or by ultraviolet and ionizing radiation (Oro & Holzer, 1979; Pavlov et al., 2012).
Based on numerous reports of the sedimentary structures, and what may be organic compounds in
ancient sedimentary rocks on Mars that may include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, it is not
unreasonable to assume that this refractory organic material, either formed on Mars from igneous,
hydrothermal, atmospheric, or biological processes (Shock, 1990; Steele et al., 2012; Sumanarathna,
2019, 2020a,b). Or alternatively, delivered directly to Mars via meteorites, comets, or interplanetary dust
particles (Gibson, 1992; Sephton, 2012; Sumanarathna, 2020c).
The ability to detect organic compounds in Martian sedimentary rocks with SAM is a function of
their initial abundance and entrainment as the rock formed, the extent of subsequent degradation during
diagenesis, exhumation, and exposure to the surface and near-surface, and the volatility/polarity and
minimal combustion of products released during pyrolysis (Anderson et al., 2015; Freissinet et al., 2015).
It has been postulated that organic compounds in near-surface rocks may undergo successive
oxidation reactions that eventually form metastable benzene carboxylates, including phthalic and mellitic
acids (Benner et al., 2000). Energetic cosmic rays can further degrade organics in the top 2 m of the
surface (Pavlov et al., 2012). SAM measurements of the abundance of noble gas isotopes in the CB
sample (Organic molecules in the Sheepbed Mudstone, Gale Crater, Mars), produced by spallation and
neutron capture, established that the mudstone analyzed was exposed to cosmic radiation for ~78 Ma
(Farley et al., 2014; Freissinet et al., 2015), which could have reduced the abundance of organic matter
originally present in sample of CB(Oro & Holzer, 1979; Freissinet et al., 2015).
The widespread presence of chlorine on Mars (Keller et al., 2006) and the detection of perchlorate
and/or oxychlorine compounds at two very different locations (Hecht et al., 2009; Glavin et al., 2013) and
findings from EETA79001 meteorite (Kounaves et al., 2014) support the hypothesis that oxychlorine
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compounds may be widely distributed in the regolith of Mars (Christensen et al., 2004; Blake et al., 2013;
Sumanarathna, 2020). How much of this material is due to biological process or purely geological
activity, is unknown.
5. Conclusions
A number of investigators have provided evidence of what they interpret to be the fossilized
remains of tube worms and other metazoans (Armstrong, 2021a; DiGregorio, 2018; Baucon et al., 2020;
Elewa, 2021; Joseph et al. 2020a,b, 2021a,b). Many of the compounds ubiquitous on the Martian surface
could have played a critical role in the organic preservation state, especially in Meridiani Planum and
Gale Crater; the same areas in which these “fossilized” impressions have been discovered. Although these
fossilized structures resemble those from Earth, and have been found to be statistically similar,
morphologically, if these are in fact fossilized organisms is unknown. What is required is extraction and
direct biochemical analysis to confirm the existence of tubular specimen at Meridiani Planum.
There is great debate as to the exact identify of the spherical structures photographed in Meridiani
Planum. If they are hematite, this supports the hypothesis that Eagle and Endeavor Crater were inhabited
thermally heated lakes. Likewise, the discovery of what be tube worm fossils also support the
hydrothermal vent hypothesis (Joseph et al. 2021a,b) whereas the fungal puffball hypothesis (Joseph
2016, 2021a; Dass, 2017; Armstrong 2021b) does not. It is true that Joseph (2021) has shown that the
spherules of Mars do not resemble the hematite spherules of Earth. However, this does not rule out or
negate the substantial evidence of hematite in the surface. It is also true that some of the important
observations of Martian spherules cannot be explained by a concretion model and they have no
resemblance to terrestrial hematite. Here, these observations include the following: (1) spherules are size
limited, (2) they are located only on the top soil (Figure 8), (3) they show no internal structure, and (4)
they lack grains of the host matrix. However, white color eroded-spherules formation that around the area
of tubular structure is not similar to hematite spherules due to trace fragments of Figure 2 (Figure 2
interpretation based on data of figure 4,5,6,7 and table 1,2,3,4). It is possible that the spherules include
hematite, tektites and lapilli and soil concretions (Robbins, 2021). Moreover, if Joseph et al (2021a,b) is
correct in their identification of what may be tube worms, then it is logical to assume that hematite
spherules were also fashioned in these hydrothermal vents, and were formed via the accretion and
rotation of solid particles with the liquid water (Hypothesis of “Weli-Thalapa” formation on Mars).
We conclude that the evidence supports the hypothesis that hematite spherules were fashioned
within thermally heated bodies of water which were inhabited by tube worms.
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Tube Worm-like Structures… 62
Journal of Astrobiology, 10, 38-62, 2021
Copyright © 2021
... The hypothesis that multiple organisms have colonized Mars in the recent or ancient past is supported by discoveries of forms that strongly resemble algae, lichens, tube worms, crustaceans and other multi-tentacled specimens on Mars [1,[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]; fossilized structures that resemble a vast array of marine invertebrates [18][19]; trace fossils of rock-boring organisms [19][20]; an ovoid specimen that emerged from a hole as revealed by sequential photos and two similar specimens that appear to be consuming prey [6], as well as fungi that grow out of the ground, increase in size and number, and move and change shape and location and some of which have a single anterior placed hole and appear to be sporing [10]. ...
... Tubular forms, interpreted as "tube worms" and "tube worm casings" as well as specimens resembling crustaceans and mass groupings of coiled worm-like forms have also been photographed in the dried lake-beds of Endeavor Crater. There were photographed adjacent to holes and upon soil and matrix the chemistry and mineralogy of which is consistent with an ancient lake or inland sea heated by thermal vents [3,17,22]. ...
... (7) Given these limiting parameters, periodic catastrophic conditions, lack of evidence that vertebrates evolved, it is possible that current and past life on Mars might be limited to bacteria, algae, fungus, lichens and other simple eukaryotes, including metazoan invertebrates as previously reported [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20] and as exemplified by the putative worms and insecta presented in this and other reports. ...
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White and dark gray oblong-ovoid cocoon-egg-like forms (“cocoon-eggs”), less than a mm in diameter, many with a single hole in one end, and some with unidentifiable specimens protruding from (exiting or entering) these holes, were photographed on mudstone in Gale Crater, Mars, on Sol 1302. If biological some of these cocoon-eggs may be frozen, fossilized or have already “hatched” or undergone metamorphosis. Specimens resembling segmented and tubular worms and rhizoids and those with multiple appendages (Arthropoda) were also photographed on these and other substrates on Mars, including on Sols 130, 132, 302, 551, 553, 808, 809, 868, 906, 1280, 1921, in Gale Crater. Many Sol 1302 “cocoon-eggs” are embedded in substrate that appears to consist entirely of a coral-stromatolite-like mass of worm- and larvae-like forms; and similar worm and segmented larvae forms appear in the interior of three semi- transparent ovoid structures. Embedded in the soil surrounding these “cocoon-eggs” are numerous concave patches reminiscent of dried “egg-yolk,” cocoon remnants or fungus, and that may represent the final stage of “cocoon” collapse and disintegration; or they are fungal in origin. Some of the segmented and tubular worm-like forms may include rhizoids and tubular fungi. Ovoids with open apertures may be evidence of fungal sporing. The possibility that fungus and diverse species and their “cocoons” share the same substrate is supported by what appears to be cyanobacteria, worms, insecta (arthropoda), and stalks topped by ovoids or ovoid-shaped microbialite-like sediment. Fungi, lichens, cyanobacteria, stromatolites and arthropoda have been previously reported in other areas of Gale Crater, whereas fungal “puffballs” and specimens attached to rocks with stalks and topped with mushroom-like caps have been observed in Meridiani Planum. The possibility these specimens are abiogenic cannot be ruled out. The evidence, in our view, arguably supports the hypotheses that various organisms colonized Mars in the ancient or recent past.
... The problem with the "imaginative cloud" interpretation is so many diverse and nearly identical forms are morphologically similar to those of Earth, and most appear within a few cm of each other and on substrates located in multiple locations in Gale Crater and other areas of Mars. For example, what may be tube worm and worm tube ichnofossils have been observed upon the dried lake bottom of not just Gale Crater [5][6][7][8] but Meridiani Planum [13] and Endurance Crater which may have hosted a lake or sea heated by thermal vents [14,15]. Likewise, specimens resembling microbialites and stromatolites have been observed in Gale Crater and other areas of Mars [16][17][18][19][20][21]. ...
... Likewise, specimens resembling microbialites and stromatolites have been observed in Gale Crater and other areas of Mars [16][17][18][19][20][21]. [14,15,[22][23][24]; waters that may have rapidly receded at some later date [4,25]; perhaps when axial tilting waned to below a critical tipping point [26][27][28]. Rampe EB, et al. [29] has argued that Gale Crater may have last hosted a lake relatively recently, though when that was, is unknown. ...
... A large body of published evidence by over 30 investigators supports the hypothesis that a variety of organisms flourished and evolved in those waters [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][13][14][15][16][17][18]20,21,25,[34][35][36]. It is our hypothesis that the fossil-like forms reported here may include bottom dwelling (benthic) and free-swimming (nectonic) organisms that likely survived by filter feeding or upon the organic content drifting down and accumulating on the floor of Gale Crater lake, or via predation or the scavenging of dead organisms. ...
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An array of formations resembling the fossilized remains of Ediacaran and Cambrian fauna and other organisms have been observed embedded atop sediments in the dried lake beds of Gale Crater, Mars. Specimens similar in morphology have been found together, or upon adjacent and nearby rocks and mudstone.These include forms morphologically similar to polychaete and segmented annelids, tube worms, "Kimberella,” crustaceans, lobopods, chelicerates, Haplophrentis carinatus, and the “ice-cream-cone-shaped” “Namacalathus” and “Lophophorates.” All specimens may have dwelled in a large body of water and may have been fossilized/mineralized following the rapid receding of these waters. Statistical quantitive micro-and macro morphological comparisons with analog organisms from Earth support the fossil-hypothesis. It is highly unlikely that these specimens were fashioned via abiogenic forces including wind, mineralization, crystallization, dried mud, or water-erosion scenarios. Collectively, these putative fossils could represent the equivalent of a “Burgess Shale” and the remnants of Martian organisms that long ago flourished in the lakes and inland seas of Gale Crater, Mars.
... A PCA of the data resulted in the extraction of two Principal components (PC's) accounting in total for 99% of the total variance (PC1 = 93%, PC2 = 6%) A plot of the populations from each of the 22 rocks in relation to PC1 and PC2 is shown in Figure 26 which shows: (1) with one exception, the terrestrial and also does not prove its a meteorite as rocks on and the surface of Mars are rich in iron (Arvidson et al., 2006;Bell et al. 2004;Bibring et al. 2006;Boynton et al., 2007). This rock was also found in Meridiani Planum which long ago may have repeatedly hosted a vast inland sea (Joseph et al. 2022) and thermally heated lakes (Joseph et al. 2021;Suamanarathna et al. 2021); and this evidence supports the bivalve "trace fossils" interpretation. In addition, "heat shield rock" is significantly different in various metrics from Earth meteorites but more closely resembles the pattern of trace fossils observed on terrestrial rocks. ...
... A number of investigators have also reported evidence of stromatolite-and microbialite-like structures on Mars (Rizzo & Castasano 2009;Rizzo et al 2021;Bianciardi et al. 2014Bianciardi et al. , 2015, Small, 2015Noffke 2015;Rabb 2018;2022, Latif et al. 2021, as well as tube worms (Armstrong 2021;Joseph et al 2021;Suamanarathna et al. 2021), sponges (Armstrong 2022;Joseph et al. , 2022, crustaceans, and other marine metazoans (Joseph et al 2021); findings consistent with the presence of large bodies of water that provided a habitat for marine organisms. Hence, as on Earth, rocks at the margins of these bodies of water may also have been invaded by rock-boring organisms, the resulting holes remaining as trace fossils of algae, crustaceans, sponges and mollusks on Mars. ...
... It has also been documented that as a consequence of extreme orbital obliquity, such that when the axis of Mars tilts to beyond 40 degrees, global temperatures and atmospheric pressure increases thereby melting all glacial ice and unleashing catastrophic floods (Joseph et al., 2022;Warner et al., 2014) that formed lakes and rivers that remained stable and endured (Treiman 2008; Davis et al. 2018) until as recently as 400,000 to 110,000 years ago (Joseph et al. 2022). Some of these lakes and inland seas were heated by volcanic and hydrothermal forces (Ehlman et al., 2011;Ruff et al. 2011;Michalski et al., 2017;Joseph et al. 2021a,b;Suamanarathna et al. 2021) within which flourished specimens resembling tube worms and crustaceans (Armstrong 2021;Joseph et al. 2021a,b;Suamanarathna et al. 2021) and those similar to Kimberella, Namacalathus, Lophophorates which on Earth evolved during the Ediacaran and Cambrian era (Joseph et al. , 2021Armstrong 2021;Elewa 2021). ...
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Rocks with numerous deep concave holes similar to trace fossils fashioned by mollusks have been photographed by Viking 2 in Utopia Planitia and the rover Perseverance in the ancient lakes beds of Jezero Crater, Mars. Specimens resembling colonies of worm-like burrowing mollusks occupy some of these concave cavities. A morphological quantitative analysis was conducted comparing various metrics of rock-surface trace fossils created by rock-drilling terrestrial bivalves with rocks with similar deep circular cavities photographed in Jezero Crater and with "heat shield" rock of Meridiani Planum; and additional analysis were performed in comparison to (a) verified meteorites and (b) with Martian and terrestrial vesicular basalt. The morphology, density, size distribution, and spatial patterns of the deep cavities on Jezero Crater rocks and trace fossils created by terrestrial bivalves were significantly statistically similar. The morphology and spatial pattern of these cavities were significantly different from the shallow depressions of meteorites; and the same is true of the Martian "heat shield" rock which is likely an iron-laden sediment that had been colonized by rock-drilling organisms. The Martian and terrestrial borehole rocks are also significantly different from vesicular basalt, and there is no similarity to the wind-carved boulders of Antarctica. Hence, as on Earth, rocks in Utopia Planitia, Meridiani Planum and along an ancient seashore at Jezero crater appear to have been colonized by rock-boring animals. These putative "trace fossils" and worm-like specimens should be considered evidence of life in the ancient inland seas of Mars.
... Dozens of ovoid specimens with appendages were also photographed within and on the outside of honeycombed sediment (Figure 11). Other examples of what appear to be organisms with pleopods or pareiopods have also been photographed in Meridiani Planum (Joseph et al. 2022) in an area that long ago hosted a lake heated by thermal vents (Suamanarathna et al. 2021; Joseph et al. 2021Joseph et al. , 2022. If these appendages are pleopods or pareiopods they would enable movement and feeding behavior as exemplified by two different specimens presented here and that appear to be feeding on specimens that are also remarkably similar in appearance (Figures 8-10). ...
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Ten ovoid life-like specimens, less than a cm in size, that appear to possess forward facing eyes and pleopod-pareiopod-like appendages have been photographed by the rover Curiosity attached to the sides of sediment in Gale Crater. Dozens of ovoid specimens with multiple appendages were also photographed within and on the outside of honeycombed sediment. If these appendages are pleopods or pareiopods they would enable movement and feeding behavior. One specimen with forward-facing eye-like orifices was photographed occluding a hole in a sedimentary side surface and the following day the specimen was photographed several centimeters outside the now empty hole upon a ledge. Two specimens with forward-facing eye-like orifice were photographed engaged in what appears to be feeding behavior. Over three dozen investigators have published evidence indicating that Mars was and is still inhabited by stromatolite-constructing organisms, and that acritarchs, green algae, fungi, lichens, corals, sponges, mollusks, tube worms, and other metazoan invertebrates evolved on the Red Planet. Hence, although it cannot be precisely determined if these ovoid specimens are in fact Martian “animalia” the evidence presented here supports the hypothesis that complex living organisms evolved on and still inhabit Mars.
... The evidence for life on Mars is not limited to the Planitia regions but includes Gale Crater and Meridiana Planum where fungal puffballs (Joseph 2014;Dass 2017, Rabb 2018Armstrong 2021a) and algae, lichens, and fungi sporing and growing out of the ground and expanding in size and number have been observed (Joseph 2016, Joseph et al. 2019. In addition, fossilized tube worms (Joseph et al. 2021;Armstrong 2021b;Suamanarathna et al. 2021) and fossils of algae, acritarchs (DiGregorio 2018; Kaźmierczak 2016Kaźmierczak , 2020Rizzo et al. 2021), concentric stromatolites (Joseph et al. , 2021Elewa 2021), and microbial mats (Bianciardi et al. 2014Noffke 2015;Rizzo & Cantasano 2009;Rizzo et al. 2015;Small 2015;Ruff & Farmer 2016;Rabb, 2018) have been observed. Trace fossils have also been identified in Jezero Crater . ...
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Vesicular rocks and thick clumps of green-colored matter photographed in Utopia Planitia and Chryse Planitia by NASA's Viking landers were subject to morphological and computerized quantitative pattern analysis. These vesicular rocks are not homogenous and include those similar to vesicular basalts, marine trace fossils, and "tafoni" which on Earth are fashioned via the interactional influences of moisture, powerful winds, the leaching of salts and lichen-chemical weathering. Upon magnification the green-colored vesicular substances closely resemble "vegetative matter" similar to green algae, lichens, mosses and vesicular mats. The green colors (based on false colors derived from spectra) may be indicative of chlorophyll and the capacity to produce oxygen via photosynthesis. These observations, when coupled with the continual replenishment of atmospheric oxygen and evidence of surface frost, subsurface water-ice, and past cycles of flooding and ponding of water, are supported by the positive results from the Viking Labeled Release and Gas Exchange experiments and should be viewed as confirming that beginning in 1976 the USA and NASA's Viking Landers 1 and 2 detected, photographed and discovered life and evidence of past life on Mars.
... However, this moisture evaporates once the spore is airborne (Hassett et al. 2015). In the atmosphere of Earth basidiospores are believed to act as nuclei which attracts moisture that in turn triggers water condensation and the formation of clouds (Hasset et al. 2015); clouds (Figures 3, 4) and evidence of thermal vents and subsurface aquifers (Joseph 2020a(Joseph , 2021bSuamanarathna et al. 2021;Clark 2005) and water pathways have been observed in the same areas where fungus, hyphae/mycelium and fruiting bodies have been observed (Joseph et al. 2021a). Basidiospores are also released under dry conditions (Levetin 2021). ...
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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.
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We evaluate claims for extraterrestrial intelligence based on the logic behind assertions such as the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. To assess intelligence elsewhere in the universe we outline two of the principle scientific claims for intelligence on Earth. One involves the idea that intelligence involves working out the reasons for our own existence. The other involves self-awareness and the capacity to make inferences about what others know, want, or intend to do. The famous quote from Rene Descartes "I think; therefore, I am" needs to be revised to read "I am; therefore, I think." Some of the conclusions we derive about intelligence include the idea that most species on planet Earth have clever brains but blank minds (no self-consciousness); humans are the only species where what you know could get you killed; if humans become extinct it is highly unlikely that human-like intelligence will re-emerge on this planet and the odds of human-like intelligence evolving on other worlds is infinitely small. However, if intelligence exists elsewhere in the universe it may not have revealed itself because humans are dangerous and are perceived as posing too great a risk.
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There are stars and Earth-like planets believed to be over 10 billion years in age. "Water worlds" and moons that contain salty oceans may be commonplace in this galaxy. The evolution of cetaceans and primates may provide some clues as to how intelligent life may have evolved on other planets. The most intelligent species of primate, Homo sapiens, has an average brain mass (~1350 g) that is considerably larger than any of the other primates but much smaller than the averages for many cetaceans, which are also believed to be very intelligent. The factors that led a subset of primates rather than the comparatively huge-brained cetaceans to dominate (from a human perspective) our planet are reviewed, including language and tool making capability. If intelligent cetacean-like beings evolved convergently in other worlds in response to aquatic habitats similar to Earth's, they would not be expected to have complex tools and technologies, whereas primate-like beings that may have evolved convergently on other planets that are much older than Earth might have long ago developed technologies that surpass our own.
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Statistical comparisons were made between various ‘tube-like’ structures photographed on Mars by Curiosity and Opportunity rovers in Gale and Endurance craters respectively and the worm ‘cases’ of terrestrial tube worms. Various statistical analyses, including principal components analysis (PCA) based on various metrics, suggested considerable similarities between the Martian tube-like structures and their terrestrial counterparts. Although, statistical comparisons cannot ‘prove’ that these tube-like structures on Mars represent tube worms, they provide a more objective basis for morphological comparison, thus supporting the conclusions of Joseph et al. (2021a). Given the significance and implications of such data, further observations are urgently needed to increase sample sizes available for statistical study.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The transition of the martian climate from the wet Noachian era to the dry Hesperian (4.1–3.0 Gya) likely resulted in saline surface waters that were rich in sulfur species. Terrestrial analogue environments that possess a similar chemistry to these proposed waters can be used to develop an understanding of the diversity of microorganisms that could have persisted on Mars under such conditions. Here, we report on the chemistry and microbial community of the highly reducing sediment of Colour Peak springs, a sulfidic and saline spring system located within the Canadian High Arctic. DNA and cDNA 16S rRNA gene profiling demonstrated that the microbial community was dominated by sulfur oxidising bacteria, suggesting that primary production in the sediment was driven by chemolithoautotrophic sulfur oxidation. It is possible that the sulfur oxidising bacteria also supported the persistence of the additional taxa. Gibbs energy values calculated for the brines, based on the chemistry of Gale crater, suggested that the oxidation of reduced sulfur species was an energetically viable metabolism for life on early Mars.
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The knowledge of Martian geology has increased enormously in the last 40 yr. Several missions orbiting or roving Mars have revolutionized our understanding of its evolution and geological features, which in several ways are similar to Earth, but are extremely different in many respects. The impressive dichotomy between the two Martian hemispheres is most likely linked to its impact cratering history, rather than internal dynamics such as on Earth. Mars’ volcanism has been extensive, very longlived and rather constant in its setting. Water was available in large quantities in the distant past of Mars, when a magnetic field and more vigorous tectonics were active. Exogenic forces have been shaping Martian landscapes and have led to a plethora of landscapes shaped by wind, water and ice. Mars’ dynamical behavior continues, with its climatic variation affecting climate and geology until very recent times.
Evidence from Mars of what may be algae, thrombolites, microbialites, microbial mats, stromatolites, and ooids is summarized. Also briefly discussed is evidence of chlorophyll, seasonal fluctuations in atmospheric oxygen, and what may be photosynthesis-oxygen gas vents adjacent to specimens resembling algae and lichens. The possible presence of calcium carbonate and calcium oxalate is also summarized the latter of which might be produced by lichens: an algae-fungi symbiotic organism that Joseph et al. (2021) believe are attached to rocks on Mars.