A small percentage of fungal cells were still able to divide after exposure to Mars-like conditions aboard the International Space Station.

Dried samples of the Antarctic-dwelling black fungi Cryomyces antarcticus and Cryomyces minteri, which live inside rocks, were exposed for 18 months to a simulated Martian atmosphere of 95% carbon dioxide, as well as high levels of ultraviolet and cosmic radiation. Silvano Onofri at the University of Tuscia in Viterbo, Italy, and his colleagues found that less than 10% of the samples divided and formed colonies after their return to Earth. However, up to two-thirds of the cells remained intact and yielded stable DNA.

The findings could inform future searches for evidence of life on Mars, the authors say.

Astrobiology 15, 1052–1059 (2016)