'Nanobacteria' Found In
Petroleum Back Theories
Of Mars Life
From Stig Agermose <>
From Stuart Bliss <>
Newsgroups: alt.conspiracy.area51
A chance discovery of previously unimaginable life forms in Australian petroleum drilling samples could trigger a new debate about extraterrestrial life. A Queensland geologist said yesterday that creatures far smaller than anything yet discovered had multiplied under her microscope.
These creatures were of the same size as the disputed 'nanobacteria' found in fossil traces in a meteorite known to have come from Mars.
The Nasa team that three years ago claimed evidence for former life on Mars is expected shortly to announce that they have found similar fossil traces inside a second meteorite from Mars. But other scientists have claimed that the Nasa team were seeing something caused by geology, not biology, and that there was no evidence for life forms 10 times smaller than the smallest known microbes on Earth.
Philippa Uwins of the University of Queensland could be about to change all that. She revealed yesterday that tiny filaments in her mineral samples had multiplied, and that she had detected DNA in them.
'What I have got is very tiny organic structures which mimic life and which are composed of carbon, oxygen and nitrogen. They are non-crystalline, so we have discounted all other possibilities,' she said.
'Our conclusion, based on the evidence that we have, is that these are living biological organisms. If they are not, nobody has yet been able to give me an alternative suggestion.'
The discovery happened during research for an offshore petroleum prospecting company. She had been looking at a clay mineral called illite, which has submicroscopic fibres. It was a microbiologist colleague who said to her: 'It looks like you have fungus growing on your samples.'
She went back to her slides and saw spore-like structures that reminded her of germinating bacteria, and filamentous growths that looked like fruiting fungal bodies. Geneticists are now trying to 'read' the DNA blueprint within the discoveries.
Other scientists have claimed to have found ultra-small bacteria in rocks but until now the consensus has been that creatures that small would have no room for the machinery of replication.
Dr Uwins does not use the word 'nanobacteria' because she doesn't know her discoveries' evolutionary development. She has called them 'nanobes'.
Monica Grady, of the Natural History Museum, in London, has been involved in the extraterrestrial life debate for the last three years. She says she has yet to read the details of the discovery.
'These things grew all over her lab surfaces and colonised her instruments and started eating her fingerprints. That doesn't mean anything much at all, it just means the rocks had bacteria in them, which rocks do. It's well known that fungi grow on rocks,' Dr Grady said yesterday. 'We have got a lot more information but I don't think we have any more knowledge.'