Finding life in remarkable places one can’t help but to have a sense of wonder. Scientists have extracted long dormant microbes trapped inside the famous crystals of the Naica mountain caves in Mexico. To everyones surprise these microbes came back to life after their 10000-50000 year slumber.
The organisms were most likely encased in the giant shafts of gypsum millennia ago. It just another demonstration of how versatile and resilient life forms can be to adapt to even the most hostile of living spaces.
“Other people have made longer-term claims for the antiquity of organisms that were still alive, but in this case these organisms are all very extraordinary – they are not very closely related to anything in the known genetic databases,” said Dr Penelope Boston.
The crystals were first opened by miners over a hundred years ago, in the hope of finding silver and other precious metals inside them. Since then scientists have been very interested in the huge crystals in the Naica caves, since they were thought to be inhabited by extremophiles. These are microbes that can survive seemingly impossible conditions. Researchers have found these micro organisms on the cave walls, but finding them inside the crystals was a surprise.
For the unfamiliar, the Naica caves are an abandoned lead mine. The crystals line the cave’s walls and it is so hot inside that scientists were required to wear makeshift space suits to avoid contamination. The researchers also have to cool down their body during the trip using ice packs.
Apart from the amazing discovery of life, the cave alone is amazing and otherworldly.