Moroccan Research Team Contributes to Discovery of Extremophilic Microbial Life in Confined Spaces

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A research team from the Faculty of Science Semlalia, Cadi Ayyad University (UCA) of Marrakech, has contributed to the discovery of an extremophilic microbial life in confined spaces dating back 570 million years.

The discovery was announced in a study carried out by a UCA research team part of the PhD project of Ibtissam Chraiki, in collaboration with researchers from France (University of Poitiers) and England (University of Cardiff), according to a statement from the Cadi Ayyad University.

The study that was published in the international scientific journal Geobiology showed that microbes were able “to colonize and thrive in extremophile environments associated with a very confined volcanic lake environment.”

The first traces of life on Earth appeared between 3.5 and 3.8 billion years ago, in microbial form (bacteria). These organisms withstood all biological and environmental crises, spanning geological time to the present day.

Long before the appearance of complex organisms, around 570 million years ago, microbial communities already occupied almost all ecosystems, both marine and continental.

The study, which is part of the project entitled “Integrated study of the evolution of the biosphere in relation to fluctuations in oxygen levels recorded from the Proterozoic to the Cambrian,” was conducted in an area located in south-eastern Morocco in the region of Ouarzazate, near the locality of AmaneTazgart, where traces of life are in an excellent state of conservation, the same source added.

The results obtained provide unmistakable fossil evidence that microorganisms have been able to adapt in a surprising manner to very diverse environments, in extreme conditions.

The site revealed biological constructions associated with the activity of bacterial colonies known as “stromatolites”. Dated to 571 Ma, they are among the best preserved biological buildings of this period (Precambrian) for the whole of the African continent and in this type of geological context.

These colonies developed in a volcanic caldera lake, where temperatures were relatively high and the waters were both saline and alkaline. These inhospitable conditions were long considered impossible for the development of any form of life.

The extreme conditions in which microbial communities lived and thrived have recently attracted NASA’s attention.

The discovery of such phenomena could serve as a terrestrial analogue for the search for simple life forms likely to exist on other planets.

The quality of the discovery site should be a reason for its inclusion to the UNESCO world heritage.

The rare discoveries made in recent years have made it possible to open up very high-level research projects on a global scale.

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