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Scientists want to reanimate 830-million-year-old microorganisms. Source: Paulista / Adobe Stock

830-Million-Year-Old Microorganisms May Help in the Search for Life on Mars


830-million-year-old organisms have been identified within an ancient salt crystal. Not only might these tiny life forms be reanimated, but the technologies being used to analyze them will help in the search for “ancient aliens.”

The single-celled microorganisms lived almost 1 billion years ago in a shallow salty lake or sea. The team of scientists identified the ancient life forms in pockets of fluid trapped within halite (rock salt) crystals gathered in southwestern Australia. The next step is to determine if these cells are alive, then, to reanimate them.

Fluid inclusions in halite with microorganisms. (Sara Schreder-Gomes)

Fluid inclusions in halite with microorganisms. (Sara Schreder-Gomes)

Smashing Old World Paradigms with Delicate Tech

Study co-author Sara Schreder-Gomes conducted this research project while working at the Department of Geology and Geography at West Virginia University. The professor told Live Science that this is not the first time microorganisms have been found in ancient salt crystals. However, until now, the oldest samples known to science dated back to the Permian period, around 250 million years ago. These new samples are around 830 million years old.

The new halite samples were obtained from Australia's Browne formation. Traditionally, such crystals were analyzed destructively, with the crystals being smashed to reveal their contents. This method has always been problematic because different aged materials around the samples are mixed together and confuse results. However, in this new research project the cells were carefully extracted from their saline tombs with microscopic syringes.

Australia Really is Treasure Island

4.4 billion years ago, in earth's formative years, billions of tons of minerals were trapped within the ancient geology of what is today Western Australia. Incalculable tons of gold, iron, nickel, heavy mineral sands, diamonds, and bauxite are all found in Australia in abundance, along with subterranean oceans of liquid gold - petroleum.

Located within the geological area known as the Officer basin, the Browne formation is several kilometers deep and comprised of compressed shale and mudstone. Therefore, geologists have calculated that billions of years ago this area was an intertidal to lagoonal environment. The team of researchers bored deep into the salt-rich Browne formation and took a series of “1 millimetre (0.04 inch) thin halite samples” at between 1,481 meters (4,858 feet) to 1,520 meters (4,987 feet) deep.

Exploring 830-Million-Year-Old Micro-Caverns

The ancient microorganisms measure from half a micron to 5 microns in diameter. For your reference, one micron is a mere 1/1000 mm (1/25,000 of an inch), and the human eye sees dust particles that are approximately 25 microns in size. Therefore, the researchers used 2000x magnifying glasses to peer into the 830-million-year-old pockets within the salt crystals.

The scientists explored inside the timeworn micro-caverns and found organic solids and liquids that were “consistent in size, shape and fluorescent response to algae and prokaryotes, simple single-celled organisms.” The halite was then analyzed with both visible and ultraviolet light, allowing the researchers to identify and categorize “eukaryotes (algae and fungi with distinct cell nuclei) and prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea with no nuclei).”

Microorganisms in individual primary fluid inclusions in Browne Formation (central Australia) halite from the Empress 1A core. (Schreder-Gomes, Benison & Bernau/ Geology 2022)

Microorganisms in individual primary fluid inclusions in Browne Formation (central Australia)
halite from the Empress 1A core. (Schreder-Gomes, Benison & Bernau/ Geology 2022)

What Could Go Wrong?

The earliest microbes (microscopic organisms) on earth, that scientists know about, are found in rocks dating to about 4 billion years old. These cells all hold a type of carbon molecule that is produced by all living things today. Schreder-Gomes said microorganisms can live dormant in salt and the plan is to crack open the crystal to find out whether the 830-million-year-old life forms are still alive, or not.

Study author Kathy Benison, a geologist at West Virginia University, told NPR that bringing ancient life into the modern world “might not sound like the most sensible idea.” However, the researcher said such experiments will be carried out with “the utmost caution” as work has been going on for many years “figuring out how to do it in the safest possible way.”

New Cell Technologies in the Search for ‘Ancient Aliens’

A report in Daily Mail says Australia's Browne formation rocks formed in a similar environment to ancient Mars, and that the Perseverance Mars rover is collecting rocks that will one day be brought back to Earth.

The new non-destructive techniques of analysis that have been developed to delve into the 830-million-year-old salt crystal, therefore, might help in the “search for ancient aliens” said Dr. Schreder-Gomes. However, these aliens probably won’t be of the grey or reptilian variety, but more likely, “long-gone microorganisms from the Red Planet,” concluded Schreder-Gomes.

Top Image: Scientists want to reanimate 830-million-year-old microorganisms. Source: Paulista / Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie



Hi All,

I know that Science is the field of Curiousity and instead of sitting back on a couch and just being curious about some subject or Topic; they rigorously go off and perform experiments to answer fundamental questions regarding their Curiousity.

There is a such thing a being too Curious where nobody stops to think before rushing headlong with every Science Experiment, gee could this be devastating consequences for The Human Race?

Could this be an Ancient Cell of Bacteria or Viruses Germs a strain where at the moment whatever existed too back then to fight it may not be around today?

Nobody ever stops and think's about those types of consequences they just get so seemingly caught up in the excitement of Yeah let's see if we can do this they never bother to think if what their doing could be disastrous for all of Us.

Charles Davenport Charles Darwin's Cousin thought His Eugenics Idea was worth conducting an Eugenics became a Nightmare on to the whole of Humanity ( that reminds me what was it with the name Charles?).

Scientist's have moments of positivity and other time's like Charles Davenport, not so much.

I'm beginning to think Scientists are to leisurely with how they conduct experiments and should be monitored like everybody else.

I think the Guard Dogs of The EPA should add a division that investigates Science experiments like this one in the article too make certain experiments like reanimating 830 million-year old microorganisms won't cause undue Harm to Us.

So now police Scientist's? Yes I do feel that there's a such thing as Too Curious and The Consequences behind that kind of Curiousity yes I may sound like a doomsday clock but, their should be a such thing as err on the side of caution.

I tend to watch program's on PBS likewise, Nature and Nova in addition to Finding your Root's after all I view Dr. Gates program as part History/Part Science.

I've noticed when Nature reveals the type's of Experiments conducted too animal's I get unusually outraged about it.

As an example Nature did a segment on Foxes. Nothing wrong with that right? At first glance No but, then the evolutionary biologists investigating when did Dog's become domesticated or how the pet dog's we live with become beloved pet's?

I was ready to go through the T.V. and do an Homer Simpson strangle too the Scientist running The Experiment's.

The experiment involved locking Foxes in cages to basically as I saw it break The Foxes interfering with how alright I'll say it God/ mother Nature designed Them to be Foxes.

The indication the Foxes were broken was through the drooping of their Tails. I don't think a single time, I've ever gotten that mad at a Nature Program on PBS.

Of course another Nature Program I was watching I felt we as Humans are getting down right invasive.

This active Kayaker out with a friend nearly got killed when an humpback whale breached an at the last second the humpback whale which was revealed in the Program angled its body so it wouldn't fall on the two human's.

The biggest problem I noticed is that they're were too many kayakers out that day crowding in one spot like sardines that was inevitable outcome from a mile a way.

As the dude researching The Humpback that nearly fell on them he wanted to know more about whales an if theyre aggressive by nature?

He wound up interviewing this nature photographer where like that Fox experiment that got me so angry I realize they're no longer respecting boundaries he was swimming working this huge camera to get pictures of two California Gray Whales Mating.

The reason why animal's mate's in the first place is too make more of them too continue to thrive as a species. That's not going to happen if they're in distressed.

The thoughtless camera man snapped a picture and the male gray whale knocked the guy out under the ocean he couldn't say how long he was knocked out but, he did get the picture of The Male Gray Whale's penis.

How many Men here would like it if they're walking down the street and some random human being grabs you takes picture's of Your Penis are you going to shrug your shoulders or are you going too knock that person out?

To me what the male gray whale did was not give his consent to that photographer taking picture's of him and his mate.

The rule involving Nature documentaries is not too interfere with what the animal in question is doing that's also a rule for animal photographers as well which is why I said maintaining boundaries is not being enforced.

It was exciting too learn that the gray whale in that case knew how to say No to having its picture taken, the photographer was apart of an research Team.

Last year I went about my routine of watching Shark Week which brings me such excitement. I felt like I did with The Foxes and also why I say people in general getting down right invasive not respecting the animal's boundaries.

So there was this segment where scientist were attempting to discover where Sharks had their babies, I mean for crying out loud can't somethings in Nature remain a mystery?

Do we truly have too know everything?

The scientists were catching an hauling pregnant sharks up on the boats so they could plants invasive probs down the sharks Yes, I'll say it since this is what they were doing vaginal region trust it to be Men involved in this endeavor.

Swearing all the while it doesn't hurt the shark oh really Did she say it wasn't hurting her she did thrash around a lot I'd take that response from the Shark to mean No I do not give consent.

Anyone with half of a brain knows that being pregnant can be quite a stressful time for any expected Mother so to dismiss The Sharks Health on the long run was wrong in my opinion.

I mean there's a machine where a pregnant shark cam swim by an they can see the baby sharks but, them it isn't enough so they built a prob to place within the Shark to learn where She goes to give birth.

Picture this a pregnant woman walking down the street minding her own business a RV or type of Van drive's up people cast Nets over her drags her into the Van begins conducting experiments on her tags her then lays her out pried her legs open and drops a prob into her vaginal region to determine where She goes too give birth.

Clearly that would never be stressful too The traumatized Woman just walking down the street with Child Right?

Really taking notice of what lengths some of these scientists goes left me wondering what other invasive, boundaries are these Scientist's doing then I read this article and it's triggering my alarm bell's of all the thing's that could possibly go wrong.

My complaint, I suppose could go on and on regarding negative Science Experiment's so I won't.

I do feel very strongly that this experiment to reanimate 830 million-year old microorganisms is A Really Bad Idea and that's why The EPA should consider adding a Section within its Department.

Which investigates Science Experiment's done by Scientist's due to the devastating consequences that could happen Environmentally.

This how I feel on this Subject Matter with this discussion so until next Discussion Everyone, Goodbye!

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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