- One Strange Rock
Weird Life Found in Earth's Driest Soil
Extreme microbes detected in the hyper-arid Atacama Desert hint at the ways organisms might eke out a living in the Martian underground.
Chile's Atacama Desert is about as close as you can get to Mars without hitching a ride on a rocket: salty, windswept, and so bone dry, it'd be easy to mistake it for being lifeless.
But a new study confirms that within these seemingly barren soils, life is waiting patiently for its chance to thrive. A few feet beneath the Atacama's surface, exceptionally hardy strains of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes have adapted to withstand punishing dryness, damaging ultraviolet radiation, and extreme saltiness.
Most of the time, these critters are inactive, but when liquid water makes its infrequent appearance, the microbes awake from their slumber and shudder to life. (Find out how weird our home world really is in One