The lake at the Poas Volcano National Park has drawn the attention of scientists and investigators that believe its extreme conditions could offer information about life in Mars.
According to Guillermo Alvarado, geologist of the National Seismology Network (RSN), the characteristics of the lake make it almost impossible for there to be any form of life, due to its acidity and the changing temperatures.
“When we talk about acidity this is leveled from 0 to 14, where 0 is the highest level of acid, and this lake has a level of 0, which means it is not suitable for life as we know it, and it is extremely hot, but with changing temperatures. However, there is life in it, microbes that we can’t see at plain sight, but which resist such extreme conditions”, explained Alvarado.
This was proved through a study carried out by the University of Colorado Boulder, the National Seismology Network and the National University’s Volcanology and Seismology Research Institute (OVSICORI); the conclusions of this study were published in the latest edition of Astrobiology magazine, which states that the Poas lake has an acidity 10 million times higher than faucet water.
“Even in an extremely harsh environment, there can still be life,” said Brian Hynek of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and the Department of Geological Sciences. “But then there’s very little life. Mars was just as extreme in its early history, so we should probably not expect to find evidence of large-scale biodiversity there.”
Scientists found bacteria of the genre Acidiphiliium: Acidiphiliimum angustum, Acidiphiliimum rubrum and Acidiphiliimum ophilus.
“It’s not uncommon to find an environment with no life, say in a volcano that’s self-sterilizing,” Hynek said. “But to find a single type of organism and not a whole community of organisms is very, very rare in nature.”
“If life did evolve on Mars, Hynek said, it would likely have survived in ways similar to the lake’s bacterium–by processing the energy from iron- or sulfur-bearing minerals.