Title : Microbial activity in Earth’s driest desert — Alfonso Davila (SSX)
Soils in the hyperarid core of the Atacama Desert (Chile) are the driest and most inhospitable on Earth. They have long been considered analogous to Martian regolith. Now, an international team of scientist including researchers from NASA Ames have discovered evidence that even in these soils microbial activity could be possible during transient and rare rain events. Their results published this month in a paper in PNAS titled “Transitory microbial habitat in the hyperarid Atacama Desert” (Schulze-Makuch et al. PNAS 2018) show that indigenous microbial communities are present and temporally active even in the driest Atacama soils. Findings reported in the paper expand the range of hyperarid environments temporarily habitable for terrestrial life, which by extension also applies to other planetary bodies like Mars. NASA Ames’ Researchers Alfonso Davila (SSX) and Chris McKay (SST) are co-authors in this publication.