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Earth-like Soils Found on Mars Indicate Microbial Life

earth like soils

Image credit: Rover image from Gale Crater reveals soil features similar to paleosols (ancient fossilized soils) on Earth / University of Oregon

On the basis of the latest images sent back by the rover Curiosity, some geologists confirmed that on Mars, there might be similar soils like Earth, because Mars used to be a warmer and wetter planet. To be exact, the ancient fossilized soils deep in an impact crater give the clue to the presence of microbial life.

From some images describing Martian landscapes, it is clearly demonstrated that a lot of loose rocks scattered on the planet owing to impacts as well as ancient, catastrophic floods.

It is rarely seen that there are smooth contours of soil softening the terrain. However, according to the mineral and chemical data collected by Curiosity, Gregory Retallack from the University of Oregon has found that its soils could much resemble those on our planet.

The soil profiles seen from Gale Crater, which was said to take shape 3.7 billion years ago, seem to have cracked surfaces full of sulfate and vesicular hollows, which are similar to desert soils on Earth. In addition, the concentrations of sulfate are also comparable with AntarcticDryValleys and Chile’s Atacama Desert.

As Gregory Retallack explained in a news release, together with these pictures as the primary clue, all the data collected did prove it. The latest data offered clues to obvious chemical weathering trends as well as clay accumulation at the expense of the mineral olivine, just like in soils on Earth.

Talking of his research published in the new edition of Geology, Retallack said, phosphorus depletion within the profiles was surprisingly interesting, because it did attribute to microbial activity on our planet.

The newly found soils are regarded to have more habitable and healthy conditions than those previously discovered on Mars. During the transitional period of 3.7 billion years ago, an early benign water cycle on Mars had been transformed to the acidic and arid Mars of today. It is believed that similarly at that time, life on Earth had started diversifying.

Curiosity is now engaging in exploration of topographically higher and geologically younger layers within the crater, in which the soils does not seem as conducive to life as expected.

Source: University of Oregon

Journal reference: Retallack, Gregory J. “Paleosols and paleoenvironments of early Mars.” Geology(2014): G35912-1.