“Biochemist Felisa Wolfe-Simon didn’t know exactly what she would find when she led an expedition to Mono Lake, a body of water near Yosemite National Park that is rich in arsenic that leaches from nearby rocks.
A NASA astrobiology research fellow studying the evolution of life on Earth, she suspected that there might be an organism somewhere that could use arsenic instead of phosphorus in its cells — and it made sense that such a critter might be found in Mono Lake. Still, she was surprised to discover that the Mono Lake mud she carried back to the laboratory contained a microbe that seemed capable of the arsenic-phosphorus substitution.
Before this finding, reported online Thursday in the journal Science, scientists had believed that all life on Earth required phosphorus to thrive — and they assumed that life in outer space might need the element, as well.
Now, some say, they may have to adjust that thinking, and change the scope of their searches for life beyond Earth.
Incidentally, early reports about the Mono Lake microbe also set off a frenzy on the Web, where some speculated that NASA was poised to announce it had uncovered extraterrestrial life.”
Life exists outside the big six (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus) building blocks of life, for an arsenic life form has been discovered in Mono Lake, California. Arsenic, even in minute amounts, causes organic tissue failure in nearly all life forms, due to its highly toxic nature. Yet this life form in Mono Lake utilizes arsenic as part of its cellular structure. This is such a monumental discovery, as it crushes the preconceived notion of what constitutes the building blocks of life. To think, we’d find our first alien, here, on terrestrial Earth. Suddenly, our place in the universe became significantly smaller, as well as opening up nearly endless possibilities to finding other carbon and non carbon-based extraterrestrial life forms.
Let there be night!