Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.Additional details about the find are available on NASA's Astrobiology site. Science Express is an online service of the Science journal.
"The definition of life has just expanded," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "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."
This finding of an alternative biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth. The research is published in this week's edition of Science Express.
The new stuff of life: arsenic
NASA, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, announced a momentous find on December 2, 02010, that of microorganisms that live off arsenic. According to the media release on their Web site,