New life found in Petri dish, not flying saucer

By Stephanie Saviola

NASA announced the discovery of a new life form that can survive on the toxic chemical, arsenic on Dec. 2. The profound breakthrough shows that scientists have only begun to unravel the complexities of life outside of what we have

previously known.

Astrobiology researchers funded by NASA discovered a strand of bacteria pulled from Mono Lake, Calif. that can grow and reproduce on arsenic. Up until this discovery, all Earth life forms required the element phosphorus along with carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur to function. The uncovered bacteria contain five of the six components except arsenic replaced phosphorus. The microorganism is able to live and reproduce using arsenic in place of phosphorus, according to

Scientists grew the microbes found in Mono Lake in a laboratory.  The microbes were given small amounts of phosphorus and large amounts of arsenic. When they removed the phosphorus completely and replaced it with the arsenic, the microbes still grew.

The researchers said they chose the location in California because of its high salinity, high alkalinity and high levels of arsenic from the lack of fresh water for the last

50 years.

Some of the headlines from the breaking news stories contained words such as “aliens,” which may have been a little misleading and people were probably a bit disappointed when the pictures that accompanied the stories were microorganisms in a Petri dish.  However,  no one can deny how unbelievable this news is.

NASA said the discovery will provide further information on the Earth’s evolution and pave the way for new findings in microbiology. It could create new concepts of how an organism evolves. The findings also show that a planet might not need to have the same components as Earth to have a life form exist.

“As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it,” said Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate on their website.

The new findings can discredit any questions or doubt of life existing outside of our planet. If life can thrive on a toxic chemical here in the U.S., then why couldn’t it thrive on another planet that contains gases and other elements not known to support life?

While some of the comments from readers on various news websites proved to be disappointing because they didn’t find E.T. or some little green wide-eyed martian, the findings are beyond impressive.  Just think of the possibilities out there in our own universe or even other galaxies.

Maybe the life forms aren’t the Hollywood aliens you’re used to seeing—or maybe they are.  Either way,  how could people not believe other life forms exist? How could we be that self-absorbed as a species to think we are the only beings who live in this massive universe and even in galaxies beyond?