Quirks & Quarks

These cave crystals contain 50,000-year-old life

Scientists reanimate microbial form of "super life".
The Cave of Crystals in Naica, Mexico are the site of a bizarre discovery. Scientists have identified ancient microbes trapped in the crystals that they estimate could be 50,000 years old. ( Alexander Van Driessche)

It's always a bit surprising to hear about life in extreme settings. Yet somehow, life finds a way to succeed in what we think of as unforgiving environments. 

Scientists call these kinds of organisms extremophiles.

Scientist Mario Corsalini stands near to a gypsum rosette crystal, in a Mexican cave system so beautiful and hot that it is called both Fairyland and hell. (The Associated Press)

And there's a new one to add to the list. Microbial life has been trapped deep under the ground for tens of thousands of years, encased in enormous, almost impossibly beautiful crystals, in the Naica mountain caves in Mexico. 

Dr. Penelope Boston is the director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. She worked on this research while she was a professor at New Mexico Tech, in Socorro, New Mexico.

Dr. Boston says these organisms could help us understand what life could be like on other planets.

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