|Paula Marie Navarra |||Aug 08, 2014 11:46 PM EDT|
(Photo : Wikipedia) The Pitch Lake in Trinidad
Small habitats on water droplets found in a unique "asphalt lake" increase the potential for life on other planets.
Researchers from Washington State University found active microbes in droplets as small as a microliter, which is 1/50th smaller than a water droplet, in the world's largest natural asphalt lake.
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The asphalt lake in question is the100 acre Pitch Lake on the Caribbean island of Trinidad.
Researchers, who have been investigating Pitch Lake since 2011, discovered the lake was teeming with microbial life and had additional habitats where life occurs and thrives.
Upon analysis, researchers found out that these droplets did not come from rain or groundwater but from ancient sea water or a brine deep underground.
They reported seeing huge diversities of bacteria and "archaea" (single celled microorganisms) in the lake. They argue all of this can be called an ecosystem because of the large number of diversities in water droplets in the lake.
Dirk Schulze-Makuch from Washington State University said that from an astrobiology point of view, this finding is reminiscent of theories that predict probable life on Titan, Saturn's largest moon.
Titan is a natural satellite known for its dense atmosphere. It is the only object in the solar system other than the Earth that has a stable body of surface liquid.
Makuch said the findings at Pitch Lake show that astrobiology also has great environment applications because of the biodegradation of oil compounds.
Aside from the lake becoming proof for extraterrestrial life, it suggests this phenomenon could also be used to clean up oil spills.
There are microbes in the lake that can actively degrade oil in asphalt, researchers pointed out.
Pitch Lake is the largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world. Located southwest of the capital Trinidad, the lake is reported to be 75 meters deep.
Pitch Lake is one of several natural asphalt lakes in the world. Among the few other asphalt lakes is the La Brea Tar Pits in California.
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