“Oldest water on Earth” helps in the quest for life on Mars

What is the News?

According to scientists, the findings of the “Oldest Water on Earth” could provide information about the nature of water and life on Earth and the possibility of finding life on Mars.

The Oldest Water on Earth:
  • In 2009, Geologist Dr. Barbara Sherwood Lollar of the University of Toronto extracted water from a Canadian mine. That water was found to be 1.6 billion years old– the oldest to be found on our planet.
  • The discovery of water was at a depth of 2.4 kilometres in Kidd Creek Mine in Canada.
  • The sample of the oldest water was then sent to the UK’s Oxford University for further research.
What did the scientists find?
  • The oldest water on Earth was found to be highly saline. The oldest water was ten times saltier than seawater.
  • The chemolithotrophic microbes had been able to survive in this highly saline water
    • Chemolithotrophic microbes: These are bacteria that can thrive in the most extreme surroundings such as the absence of light, organic presence, etc.
  • Moreover, these microbes were found feeding on nitrogen and sulphate. The chemistry that supported them is similar to ocean beds that are known to support similar extreme life forms.
  • Hence, it was concluded that the Canadian Shield on which the Kidd Creek Mine is located used to form an ocean floor in the past.
  • However, due to millions of years of flux, the horizontal seabed became vertical from which the water sample was extracted.
Significance of these Findings:

 Possibility of Life on Mars:

  • The Canadian Shield which has the least tectonic activity is the closest analogue on Earth to the subsurface of Mars.
  • If the life-supporting water can be found at this Canadian Shield which is 2.4 km below the Earth.
  • Then, it may be possible that the same could be true in the case of the Red Planet.
  • Hence, this hypothesis provides help for Mars missions like Perseverance. As the Perseverance and other missions are looking for signs of present or past life on Mars.

Source: Indian Express

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