Weird microbial life-forms that could be up to 50,000 years old have been found trapped inside giant crystals deep in a Mexican cave.
Specifically, this is located inside the Cave of Crystals of the Naica mine in the northern state of Chihuahua. This place is extremely hot that scientists had to wear light versions of space suits with ice packs all over their bodies. The adaptation of these life forms in such harsh conditions is very interesting as it adds evidence and could possibly explain how versatile life on Earth is. These creatures also thrive on iron, sulfur, and other chemicals. Researchers believed it to still be active even though they have been dormant for quite some time.
“These organisms have been dormant but viable for geologically significant periods of time, and they can be released due to other geological processes,” says NASA Astrobiology Institute director Penelope Boston, who announced the discovery at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “This has profound effects on how we try to understand the evolutionary history of microbial life on this planet.”
“However, the amount of skepticism associated with these studies usually correlates directly with the age of the claim,” cautions Brent Christner, a microbiologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Today’s scientists still don’t know how long life of any kind can survive when dormant which causes this doubt. They explain that without food, even slumbering organisms’ cells will start to degrade. Moreover, there is no specific knowledge on how these microbes can slow down their metabolism enough to survive for this long.
A possible reason, nonetheless, has been explained by Christner- these organisms might have been using limited energy sources in the fluids. “Perhaps they are surviving by eating dead microbes that weren’t so lucky.” It’s also possible for these microbes to not live inside the crystals but instead, from the pools of water surrounding them.
This discovery has raised so much questions but one thing is clear- this shows how tough life on Earth can be.