Caves – Mars Connection

Caves – Mars Connection

Music; Ambience: breathing

JM: One key to understanding life on Mars could be found deep below the surface of our own planet, in the dark waters of ancient salt water caves. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. In the absence of sunlight bacteria in these caves have developed a special ability to derive energy from hydrogen sulfide, and other chemicals in the water. Tom Illiffe is a veteran cave diver, and a professor of Marine Biology at Texas AandM University. In the background we are listening to the sounds of divers in salt water caves.

TI: “Unlike surface ecosystems where organisms uh, feed off feed of plants or other animals that feed on plants, there are no plants in the underwater caves because there ‘s no light. Instead of using light as a primary energy source, we have bacteria that may use chemical reactions as a source of energy.”

JM: Because these bacteria evolved under such harsh conditions, Dr. Illiffe believes they could resemble the kind of organisms which might survive on Mars.

TI: “Life in caves is essentially life in extreme environments. We’re talking about environments where there’s no light, very limited food resources, considerable isolation of the habitat. These may be conditions that are similar to conditions present on other planets in our solar system. Recently there’s been discoveries of possibilities of water on Mars, and water in the form of springs coming up and seeping out of the rock. If there is life on Mars, perhaps it’s life down in underwater caves on Mars, similar to the underwater caves we’re diving in here on planet Earth.”

JM: Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Caves - Mars Connection

Ancient salt water caves harbor ecosystems similar to what life on Mars might have once been like.
Air Date:01/22/2002
Scientist:
Transcript:

Caves - Mars Connection

Music; Ambience: breathing

JM: One key to understanding life on Mars could be found deep below the surface of our own planet, in the dark waters of ancient salt water caves. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. In the absence of sunlight bacteria in these caves have developed a special ability to derive energy from hydrogen sulfide, and other chemicals in the water. Tom Illiffe is a veteran cave diver, and a professor of Marine Biology at Texas AandM University. In the background we are listening to the sounds of divers in salt water caves.

TI: "Unlike surface ecosystems where organisms uh, feed off feed of plants or other animals that feed on plants, there are no plants in the underwater caves because there 's no light. Instead of using light as a primary energy source, we have bacteria that may use chemical reactions as a source of energy."

JM: Because these bacteria evolved under such harsh conditions, Dr. Illiffe believes they could resemble the kind of organisms which might survive on Mars.

TI: "Life in caves is essentially life in extreme environments. We're talking about environments where there's no light, very limited food resources, considerable isolation of the habitat. These may be conditions that are similar to conditions present on other planets in our solar system. Recently there's been discoveries of possibilities of water on Mars, and water in the form of springs coming up and seeping out of the rock. If there is life on Mars, perhaps it's life down in underwater caves on Mars, similar to the underwater caves we're diving in here on planet Earth."

JM: Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.