The simplest microorganisms that became the first inhabitants of our native planet, at an early stage of life, could eat … meteorites!
People and other animals must eat organic foods in order to survive. However, the unicellular organism Metallosphaera sedula (M. sedula) is able to receive energy from inorganic substances by eating, for example, metals, which allows it to thrive in the most adverse conditions on our native Earth.
A team of researchers from the University of Vienna decided to test the survivability of M. sedula and isolated single-celled cells by placing them on the surface of pieces of the NWA 1172 meteorite, found in 2000. Fragments of the meteorite were completely sterilized, so the presence of at least some kind of organic matter was excluded.
Surprisingly, representatives of the species M. sedula eagerly absorbed the microscopic dust of the meteorite and actively multiplied.
“The reaction of unicellular surprised and pleased us. Our team immediately noted that unicellular ones behave very actively and almost dance with joy, finding themselves on a lifeless cosmic stone, ”said the head of the study, Tatyana Miloevich.
Astrobiologists are interested in this study, since they believe that this discovery will help to find extraterrestrial life.
“We learned what unicellular eat and what they leave behind. By tracking similar biosignatures in outer space or on other planets, we can try to find life outside the Earth, ”concluded Miloevich.
Probably, the results of the study will be applied for the first time during the upcoming NASA Mars-2020 mission.