Arsenic and New Life (Earth Current)

Tufa formations around Lake Mono, California.

It is not an alien life form, says NASA, but the arsenic-based bacteria discovered in Lake Mono, California last week has changed our definition of life and our understanding of where it is possible.

Previously, all life on earth was thought to be based on only six elements. However, the newly discovered organism replaces phosphorus, previously considered an essential element in all living cells, with arsenic, a chemical poisonous for most life on Earth.

“As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it,” said Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA astrobiology research fellow in residence at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, CA adds, “If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven’t seen yet?” Read the whole story from NASA.

For all the latest science news, check out our twice-weekly news rundown, EarthCurrent.

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