Dirk Schulze-Makuch
Dirk Schulze-Makuch

For the first time, researchers have seen life rebounding in the world’s driest desert, demonstrating that it could also be lurking in the soils of Mars.

Led by Washington State University planetary scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an international team studied the driest corner of South America’s Atacama Desert, where decades pass without any rain. Scientists have long wondered whether microbes in the soil of this hyperarid environment, the most similar place on Earth to the Martian surface, are permanent residents or merely dying vestiges of life, blown in by the weather.

In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Schulze-Makuch and his collaborators reveal that even the hyper-arid Atacama Desert can provide a habitable environment for microorganisms.

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