Can Any Organisms Survive on Air Alone?

Scientists wanted to know how any life forms could survive in parts of Antarctica where there is not only very little sunlight, but also freezing temperatures, high UV radiation, negligible precipitation, and no apparent access to life-sustaining carbon. What they found was that certain microbes can survive on atmospheric energy alone. In 2014, researchers collected soil samples from two ice-free sites along the eastern coast of Antarctica. They discovered two previously-unknown bacteria, known as WPS-2 and AD3, that exist by taking carbon directly from the air.

A low threshold for life to exist:

  • These extreme microbes have genes that give them a “high affinity” for hydrogen and carbon monoxide, making it easy for them to capture molecules from the atmosphere.

  • The discovery, scientists said, opens the possibility that life forms may exist on other planets, relying entirely on atmospheric gases to survive. The results were published in the journal Nature in 2017.

  • Conditions in Antarctica are similar to conditions on certain moons and planets, which is why scientists study the continent's harsh environment to determine if life may exist on other worlds.

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Science, especially science research into the unknown possibilities of the extreme, pays off in unpredictable ways. This is why I am in pursuit of a physics degree. Amazing stuff.

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