It seems that the Great Salt Lake in Utah was moved from another planet. Slightly pinkish water surface framed by a ring of dazzling crystals sparkling in the sun. They look like frost, but do not melt even at 40-degree heat.
The water level in the lake is now the lowest in 30 years. Accordingly, the salt concentration therein reached 30% — ten times higher than in the oceans.
It would seem that there is not no one and nothing will survive. But life in the lake is literally boiling. It is home to dozens of species of micro-organisms, swarming in a concentrated solution of chlorine and sodium. Science calls them halophiles — "solelyubami."
On Earth, many creatures, primitive, but it has a fantastic vitality. They function and reproduce in the steep brine and acid in the heat and in the cold, with high radiation and the huge pressure. They indicate the general term — "extremophiles." The study of extremophiles is enormous scientific and practical interest.
Dr. Bonnie Baxter from Westminster College in the state capital Salt Lake City has devoted his scientific career description and classification of the inhabitants of the Great Salt Lake. The work on the catalog of participating Dr. Scheele Das Sharma of the University of Maryland — the world's leading specialist in halophiles.
Bonnie Baxter was found that each halophytes has inside his body invisible to the naked eye special "pump" permanently removes salt. As a result, its concentration in the body of a microbe reduced several times as compared with the environment.
"Pump" is driven by the energy of light. But this means that microbes are forced to spend most of their time on the water, under the deadly to humans by direct rays of the sun.
It appears, from ultraviolet to protect their special pigments — carotenoids. These are what give the saturated water organisms, stunningly beautiful pink hue. "The cells of the human body also contains carotenoids, but in much smaller numbers. And what if it were possible to artificially boost their concentration? Mastered the secrets of the structure of these microbes, mankind would receive an effective remedy for skin cancer. Among other things, the Earth's climate is warming," — says Dr. Baxter.
More interested in its potential similarity inhabitants of the Great Salt Lake and Martian microorganisms — unless, of course, available. "The genomes of all living beings are the same for about three quarters. Not that the inhabitants of the Great Salt Lake. Their genetic structure is unlike anything that the earth," — says Dr. Das Sharma. Great Salt Lake and its surrounding plain Bonneville Salt Flats formed back in place on a much larger size of Lake Bonneville, dried several thousand years ago.
Mars rover "Opportunity" as the researchers found, is moving along the bottom of dried-up salt lake, very reminiscent of Lake Bonneville. The presence of water on Mars in the past — is a scientific fact. As soon as thinning Martian atmosphere, the water is dispersed in space or freeze until the place of seas and lakes were not formed porous rock.
This process continued for many thousands, if not millions of years. As soon as the shoaling waters, the salt content in them was increased. Mars microbes had to adapt to the high concentration of sodium and chlorine and strong solar radiation. Where on earth to find such a place?
Sending a manned spacecraft to Mars — a matter of time. Dr. Baxter is looking forward to when her lab will rock samples and salt crystals Plateau Meridien.
Incidentally, in 2000, researchers were able to return to a life of earthly bacteria-halophytes, fallen into a state of suspended animation 250 million years ago and is extracted from underground salt deposits. But what if you can do the same with respect to the Martian microorganisms?
"When I look at this lake, I always think that it's probably very similar to the same lake on Mars. If my hands would be a piece of Mars — who knows what I can find there?" — Bonnie dreams Baxter, sitting on the covered sparkling crystals coastal boulder.
Battery News, 25.05.2004 16:43