Sol 147 image taken by Opportunity rover. Martian specimens approximately 3-8 mm in size
resembling Puffballs (Basidiomycota), some with stalks or shedding white spore-like material (leprose).
Credit: Rhawn Gabriel Joseph, et al.







UPDATE: Critical review of this research can be found at: “No, NASA photos are not evidence of fungus growing on Mars, sorry
Despite what you might have read, the claims about life on Mars are shoddy and unscientific.”

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Life on Mars? According to an international team of researchers there is, in the form of Martian fungi.

Their case makes use of imagery from the NASA Curiosity and Opportunity rovers, as well as photos taken from Mars orbit by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), a super-powerful camera onboard the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The research paper appearing in Advances in Microbiology  is led by Rhawn Gabriel Joseph, Rudolph Schild from Harvard-Smithsonian, and Xinlei Wei, a microbiologist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Harsh environment

They explain that Martian fungi, lichens, moulds, algae and other putative life-forms, would have evolved on and already be adapted to the low temperatures, intermittent availability of water, low amounts of free oxygen, and high levels of radiation that characterize the harsh Martian environment.

Strands that snake across and sometimes rise above the surface. If biological, these specimens
may consist of calcified fungal mycelium or encrusted plasmodium and protoplasmic tendrils punctuated
with fossilized bulbous fruiting bodies (sporangia). Or they may be very unusual abiogenic formations.
Credit: Rhawn Gabriel Joseph, et al.

“What would be surprising is if there was no life on Mars,” the team asserts.

“Similarities in morphology are not proof of life. It is possible that all the specimens presented here are abiotic. We cannot completely rule out minerals, weathering, and unknown geological forces that are unique to Mars and unknown and alien to Earth,” the research paper explains. “However, growth, movement, alterations in location and shape, constitute behavior, and coupled with life-like morphology, strongly support the hypothesis there is life on Mars.”

To read the full paper in Advances in Microbiology – “Fungi on Mars? Evidence of Growth and Behavior from Sequential Images” – go to


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