NASA reveals discovery of "alien" microorganism in Mono Lake, California
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) revealed today (Philippine time) the discovery of a microorganism with "completely foreign, or alien, if you will" DNA in Mono Lake, California, reports Yahoo News. During the "hyped-up" press conference, a team of NASA astrobiologists said the microorganism uses arsenic, a poisonous element, instead of phosphorus in its chemical building blocks.
Mono Lake is a toxic environment with a pH of 10, and is thrice saltier than the ocean, Yahoo News cited Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA Astrobiology research fellow and the team’s lead scientist. This means that the discovery of the microorganism, strain GFAJ-1, in the lake shows that "life can not only survive, but thrive in environments which we previously thought to be far too harsh," according to Yahoo News.
"We know that some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we’ve found is a microbe doing something new--building parts of itself out of arsenic," Wolfe-Simon said in a NASA.gov article. "If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven’t seen yet?"
NASA earlier said the astrobiology finding "will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life." The Yahoo News report supports NASA’s claim: "(The discovery of arsenic-based life on Earth) expands the possible sources of extraterrestrial life to planets that include arsenic, but very little phosphorus in their predominant chemical signatures. Furthermore, it demonstrates that there is more than one chemical solution to the problem of life."
Video of the press conference broadcast on NASA.gov (Part 1)
Video of the press conference broadcast on NASA.gov (Part 2)
Video of the press conference broadcast on NASA.gov (Part 3)
Video of the press conference broadcast on NASA.gov (Part 4)