After the suggestions that a hypothesised hydrogen breathing, acetylene eating bacteria could survive on Titan, another suggestion has appeared – that a sulphate breathing, methane eating bacteria could survive on Mars.
This time the bacteria isn’t a hypothesis, it is a discovery – living in Lost Hammer, a shallow spring in the Canadian Arctic. The oxygen in the spring is unusable, meaning the bacteria must be breathing something else, like sulphates, and their food seems to come from bubbles created in a reaction between the rock and water that are fifty percent methane. Not only this, but the spring itself is very salty and exists at subzero temperatures most of the time, making it a good analogue to some Martian conditions.
Even if these bacteria, and there were two different species in the spring, don’t turn out to be replicated on Mars, the production of methane geologically like this may well also offer an explanation for the pockets of methane seen to exist on the Red Planet. Could the answer to two Martian mysteries be found in Lost Hammer?