A team of geologists recently announced that they will crack open a rock salt crystal that’s over 830 million years old, which is believed to contain alive prehistoric microorganisms. The announcement was made via Geology.
Geologist Kathy Benison from West Virginia University mentioned that while studying the liquid from where the salt grew, they found certain structures that could be deemed as microorganisms. She suspects that there could be signs of life swimming in the microhabitat the crystal has formed.
Salt is an excellent food preservative. Still, crystalized rock salt can’t sustain ancient life on its own. Rock crystals come to life as salty seawater evaporates, and that means that water (and perhaps microorganisms) may end up being trapped in their structure.
Below you can watch a video of the fascinating crystal and how a small bubble moves inside the structure.
The team has already suspected that life can survive in what they describe as a “dormant state” within the fluids the salt crystals have retained for millions of years. Now the team is enthusiastic about discovering if the liquids are actually capable of preserving life for such a long time.
Benison said that they would open the crystal to confirm their suspicions. Like Schrödinger’s Cat, the microscopic life could be either alive or dead. Either result could be useful for the community.
It may not seem like the most prudent idea to bring back to life ancient microorganisms. However, the procedure will be handled cautiously.
Biologist Bonnie Baxter from Westminster College in Salt Lake City commented on the issue but was not part of the experiment. Baxter said that she isn’t afraid of the ancient life forms, as it’s very unlikely for an environmental organism that has had no contact with humans to possess the mechanism to produce diseases.
The biologist also said that this study could not only help us find out more about the origins of life on our Planet, but it could also be useful in the plans of finding extraterrestrial life on other planets, like Mars.
There’s no doubt that this experiment will be quite exciting. It may be worth it to keep an eye on it!
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