Editor's Summary

21 April 2005

Park life: Yellowstone rocks

The outer few millimetres of rocks exposed on the Earth's surface commonly harbour communities of photosynthetic microbes. In extreme environments, these 'endolithic' communities are often the main form of life. Extreme is certainly the word for the pore space in the extremely acid (pH 1) rocks in the Yellowstone National Park geothermal environment, but a microbial community has now been discovered there, made up mainly of photosynthetic algae and large numbers of previously unknown Mycobacterium species. An interesting aspect of this discovery is the possibility that such communities can deposit biosignatures in the geologic record, and provide clues about ancient life associated with geothermal environments. And it follows that defunct geothermal systems might be good places to start looking for evidence for past life on Mars.

LetterGeobiology of a microbial endolithic community in the Yellowstone geothermal environment

Jeffrey J. Walker, John R. Spear and Norman R. Pace

doi: 10.1038/nature03447

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