Boffins are convinced new photos of Mars prove that life once existed on the planet – and may still be thriving today.
Scientists claim to have identified fossilised creatures on the Red Planet’s surface, including shrimp, crabs, sea spiders, scorpions and a translucent millipede. Some even insist they have seen living algae and fungi.
In the last month, the experts have published four papers in prestigious science journals setting out their case for life on Mars.
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Dr Rudolph Schild – of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics – said: “We have photos of fungi growing out of the ground, increasing in size, increasing in number, as based on sequential images.”
Their theories are largely based on images beamed back from Nasa’s rovers, which have been trundling over the surface of Mars for 26 years. Some appear to show the tell-tale glow of living blue-green algae, also called cyanobacteria.
Dr Schild added: “We have published photos of cyanobacteria growing. We have photos of an unusual specimen that may have been in a hole and two days later is outside the hole. Is that proof? Proof would require one of these organisms to walk up and lick the camera. Proof would require extraction and direct examination.”
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Many of the so-called fossils were pictured inside the Gale Crater, a basin that was probably once a large lake.
There also appears to be evidence of microbialites – reef-like underwater structures made of microbes – and worm eggs.
But Italian geologist Dr Vincenzo Rizzo is less convinced that anything was still alive on the planet.
He insisted: “I saw only rocks. Statements about spiders etc are based only on morphological aspects that are at odds with the biological evolution expected for Mars.”
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