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Siberian scientists find bacteria that could live on Mars

By The Siberian Times reporter
03 April 2019

Tomsk researchers were the first in the world to catch the enigmatic germ.

Olga Karnachuk, head of the Plant Physiology and Biotechnology department of Biological Institute at Tomsk State University. 

The unique microorganism is dubbed ‘The Daring Wanderer’ (Lat: Desulforudis audaxviator) for its ability to generate energy in complete absence of light and oxygen, which can make living in space possible in the future. 

Tomsk State University microbiologists were the first in the world to complete a ten year long ‘hunt’ for the underground bacteria. 

‘The bacteria’s genetic trail was discovered by American scientists more than 10 years ago’, said Olga Karnachuk, head of the Plant Physiology and Biotechnology department of Biological Institute at Tomsk State University. 

‘They found its DNA deep in the waters of a gold mine in South Africa. Sampling was done at a depth between 1.5 to 3km where there is no light and oxygen. 

‘We believed not so long ago that life in such conditions was impossible, as without light there would be no photosynthesis, but that assumption turned out to be wrong.’

Back then the team of American researchers announced their discovery in the Science magazine publication, prompting a worldwide hunt for the bacteria. 

Its DNA was found in water samples taken around Finland and the US, but until now no-one managed to catch the ‘Daring Wanderer’. 

Desulforudis audaxviator


Desulforudis audaxviator

The unique microorganism is dubbed ‘The Daring Wanderer’ (Lat: Desulforudis audaxviator) for its ability to generate energy in complete absence of light and oxygen, which can make living in space possible in the future. Pictures: Biological Institute of TSU

One of the explanations of why it seemed to be impossible to locate the bacteria was the theory that it only gets divided once every thousand years. 

Yet Russian microbiologists from Tomsk State university ‘caught’ it in waters of an underground thermal spring in the north-east of Tomsk region. 

The team of researchers was helped by their extensive practical experience in isolating complex sulfate-reducing bacteria.  

In search of a “wanderer,” scientists have been helped by the extensive practical experience accumulated earlier on the isolation of complex sulfate-reducing bacteria.

The sulfate reducers are one of the most ancient microorganisms on Earth, distinguished by the ability to generate energy without oxygen by consuming sulphates and oxidizing hydrogen or basic organic compounds. 

Bely Yar thermal spring

'A group of Moscow specialists led by Professor Nikolay Ravin went through water samples and found the Wanderer in those taken in the Beliy Yar village.’ Picture: Biological Institute of TSU

There are thermophilic bacteria in the group that can live and multiply at temperatures from plus 50C to plus 93C.

‘We worked in tandem with our long term partners from Biotechnology centre of Russian Academy of Sciences’, said Olga Karnachuk. 

‘They are very experienced in sequencing DNA. 

'A group of Moscow specialists led by Professor Nikolay Ravin went through water samples and found the Wanderer in those taken in the Beliy Yar village.’

Soon the Tomsk State University scientists extracted the bacteria and found that it divides not every thousand years but every 28 hours, that oxygen wasn’t killing it and that it had a very good ‘appetite’.

Bely Yar


Bely Yar


Bely Yar

Beliy Yar village is located in the north-east of Tomsk region.

The omnivorous wanderer ate sugar, neat alcohol and a lot of other things offered by microbiologists. It felt the best and generated the biggest amounts of energy while on a hydrogen diet, however. 

The scientists found that the bacteria travelled the world thanks to smallest gas bubbles alike those that help fish float - but the ways it moves about is still a mystery as underground water reservoirs where the DNA was found were geologically isolated. 

One of the theories so far is that the Daring Wanderer travels through the air, getting through great depths to open water bodies. 

One of the biggest surprises was to find that the genome of the Siberian bacteria being almost identical to the one found in South America.

TSU

The Biological Institute of Tomsk State University, previously the Faculty of Biology of TSU, is one of the oldest faculties, whose work began in 1885.

‘It shouldn’t be like this, it’s a mystery that we still struggle to understand’, said Olga Karnachuk. 

‘There always are mutations, even when the same bacteria is cultivated in the lab, there will be differences in DNA over time - but there aren’t any in this case, and we can’t explain this. 

'The answer must be somewhere in fundamentals of existence of living cells that haven’t been studied yet. 

'The explanation of this genetic similarity is a matter of the future, something scientists still have to work on.’ 

The Biological Institute of Tomsk State University, previously the Faculty of Biology of TSU, is one of the oldest faculties, whose work began in 1885, three years before the official opening of the university. 

Comments (2)

Thank you for sharing the progress on this fascinating "Daring Wanderer". I look forward to further updates on the mystery surrounding its mobility and seemingly isolated-from-each-other geographic locations.
Pamela K Tetarenko, United States
08/04/2019 22:14
0
0
All academic words are defined on planet Earth, which are known widely.
Planet Mars is still unknown world (even application on cold Polar area) which has not been investigated globally and locally on outcrop. Environments ( cold or no oxygen) are included on global systems on planet Earth defibnitely. Word of life is better to say as "biological sciences" so far.
Negishi J., Toronto, Canada
05/04/2019 02:22
0
0
1

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