NASA Discovers Unique Life Form

World | December 3, 2010, Friday // 17:06|  views

The poisonous Mono Lake in California. File photo

NASA scientists have made an exciting and unexpected discovery – an organism which survives extreme conditions without phosphorus – one of the 6 essential "life elements".

All life on Earth was previously believed to be made up of six components: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. This means that every being on earth shares the same DNA blocks - the smallest amoebas to the largest whales.

The newly found bacteria's DNA is completely alien to what science used to assume until now. Instead of using phosphorus, the bacteria uses arsenic, something that was thought to be completely impossible.

The bacteria has been discovered in the poisonous Mono Lake, California.

Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA astrobiology fellow at the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., who led the research, said, "This is a microbe that has solved the problem of how to live in a different way."

This story is not about Mono Lake or arsenic, she said, but about "cracking open the door and finding that what we think are fixed constants of life are not," Wolfe-Simon.

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Tags: NASA, phosphorus, arsenic, bacteria, DNA


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