Extremeophiles and Extreme Environments

Growth At A Wide Range Of Pressures On Other Worlds

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
February 27, 2023
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Growth At A Wide Range Of Pressures On Other Worlds
Artist’s concept of Europa’s ice shell and the ocean beneath. If life were to exist deep below the ocean of Jupiter’s moon Europa, cells would need to cope with relatively high pressures. IMAGE CREDIT: NASA/JPL-CALTECH.

NASA-supported researchers have studied a bacteria on Earth to gain insight into the mechanisms that organisms could use to survive on cold solar system bodies like Mars and Europa.

To survive in these locations, life would have to cope with brutally cold temperatures as well as both low and high pressure environments. Compared to Earth, the thin atmosphere of Mars means that pressure at the surface is relatively low. Conversely, the pressure at the bottom of oceans, for instance on Europa, is relatively high.

In a recent study, researchers examined bacteria from the genus Carnobacterium in high and low-pressure conditions at low temperature. These organisms are known to tolerate freezing and thawing at a wide range of pressures, but the limits of their abilities were previously unknown.

The team cultivated 14 strains of Carnobacterium in near-freezing conditions at pressures spanning five orders of magnitude. Eleven of the strains were able to grow at all the pressures tested. It is the first time that an organism from Earth has been shown to grow at such a wide range of pressures.

Study: Carnobacterium Species Capable of Growth at Pressures Ranging Over 5 Orders of Magnitude, from the Surface of Mars (103 Pa) to Deep Oceans (107 Pa) in the Solar System, Astrobiology

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻