Saturday, April 10, 2010

Animals that live without oxygen

"It's life, but not as we know it, Jim!"

"O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!"
"There are more things in Heaven and earth …"

Deep under the Mediterranean Sea small animals have been discovered that live their entire lives without oxygen and surrounded by 'poisonous' sulphides. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology report the existence of multicellular organisms (new members of the group Loricifera), showing that they are alive, metabolically active, and apparently reproducing in spite of a complete absence of oxygen.
Rand Simberg says, "Pretty cool. What does this say about prospects for extraterrestrial life?"

Could these be survivors from the Archaean, before photosynthesizing plants gave Earth its oxygen-rich atmosphere? (Not likely, but considering the next paragraph …)

This month's Analog has a related story, "At Last the Sun" by Richard Foss. It must have been written before this discovery was announced.

Update: Author Richard Foss has stopped by to comment that he did indeed write the story months before the discovery was announced. It's a good 'un, so go ye forth and buy that Analog.


Richard Foss said...

Speaking as the author of the story, yes, I turned it in seven months ago. The coincidence is wonderful...

Hector Owen said...

What a treat to get a comment from the author. Thanks for stopping by.

That premise of a separate anaerobic (or would you prefer "anoxic") evolution could lead to a lot more stories. I'd read them.

Richard Foss said...

I hope so, because I intend to write them... To give credit where credit is due, Larry Niven pioneered the concept with his short story "The Green Marauder" in 1980; I expanded on that idea and took it in a different direction than he did.
There are many stories to be written that involve what our environment has been and could be, with or without human intervention.