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Fungus Growing in Mars

There is a persistent search for life on Mars with NASA’s latest rover Perseverance using its scientific instrumentation to scan the Jezero Crater, an area believed to be a dried-up ancient lake, for any signs of ancient microbial life. This research was published in the journal Advances in Microbiology.

Based on a team of researchers, the space agencies other rovers may have already found signs of relatively advanced life in the form of fungus-like Martian specimens. The team includes researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and George Mason University, who believes they have found photographic evidence of a variety of fungus-like organisms, some resembling the shape of puffballs, a round cloud-like fungus found in abundance back here on Earth, on the Red Planet.

Their evidence is images taken by NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers as well as the agency’s HiRISE high-resolution camera attached to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. White protoplasmic-mycelium-like tendrils were featuring fruit-like appendages forming networks above and directly on the Martian surface. One of the images showed hundreds of dimpled formations roughly 1 mm in size.

The team wrote that Fungi thrive in radiation intense environments. Sequential photos document that fungus-like Martian specimens grow from the soil and increase in size, including those similar to the puffballs. After the obliteration of spherical specimens by the rover wheels, new spherical, some with stalks appeared atop the crests of old tracks.

The team went so far as to say that black fungi-bacteria-like specimens also appeared on top of the rovers. The team argues that these Martian life forms would have evolved on and already be adapted to the low temperatures, intermittent availability of water, low amounts of free oxygen, and high levels of radiation.

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