It's life, but not as we know it
The Daily Telegraph (Australia)
January 29, 2004

AUSTRALIAN scientists claim to have conclusive proof that unusual 
microscopic fossils found in a four billion-year-old meteorite from 
Antarctica are bacterial life from Mars.

And in an extraordinary piece of research to be published today, they 
claim that the find makes it probable that life on Earth first began on 

NASA scientists who have reviewed the research claimed that the work by 
Sydney biophysicist Dr Tony Taylor confirmed their theories, which many 
in the scientific community have doubted since they were first put 
forward in 1996.

"We have a better match than a fingerprint," the Australian Nuclear 
Science and Technology Organisation's Dr Taylor said. His research is 
published today in the highly regarded Journal of Microscopy.

"They are the original material . . . they are the real McCoy . . . they 
were produced by Mars," he said.

"The bacteria that we studied had 11 characteristics identical to the 
fossilised bacteria in the meteorite, demonstrating beyond reasonable 
doubt that the features in the meteorite had a biological origin.

"I say that NASA made the enormous discovery, I have just confirmed it . . . 
I just filled in the last piece of the jigsaw.

"Our research shows the structures found in the NASA meteorite were more 
than likely made by bacteria present on Mars four billion years ago - 
before life even started on Earth."

In 1996, NASA scientists claimed the structures inside the ALH84001 
meteorite from Mars, which crashed into Earth in 1984, were bacterial 

However, many scientists have since claimed that the structures could 
easily have been formed by inorganic chemical processes.

Now, new species of bacteria found in mud from Queensland have been 
discovered to have the same bio-signatures as the material which was 
found inside the meteorite.

Using a world-first breakthrough in electron microscopy developed by 
Dr Taylor and his collaborator Professor John Barry from Queensland 
University, it was possible to peer further into the structures than 
has been done previously, revealing magnetites inside the fossil and 
those inside the newly discovered normal earthly bacteria were identical.

Living organisms arrange carbonate crystals - called magnetites as 
they are magnetically aligned like a compass - inside their cells in 
unique ways.

Professor Malcom Walter, an astrobiologist from Macquarie University, 
said he was very sceptical about the new claims.

"There has been a long history of trying to interpret bacteria inside 
meteorites as life," Mr Walter said.

NASA scientist at the AMES Research Centre Professor Imre Friedmann - who 
did the original work on the meteorite said: "When I received my e-mail 
from Tony with a copy of his new research paper I realised that it 
contained no less than an elegant confirmation of our findings which 
were doubted by many of our scientific colleagues.

"We found microscopic structures in the Martian meteorite ALH84001 which, 
we suggested, have features that are tell-tale signs of biological origin 
and could have been produced only by bacteria."

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