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WVU expert says water on Mars would be extremely acidic but could host life

Woman in blue shirt and brown hat stands in a yellow and green body of water, holding up a white sea creature

WVU’s Kathleen Benison is available to talk about the qualities of potential liquid water on Mars and what microorganisms could survive in it.

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With new and compelling evidence for water existing beneath the south pole of Mars, a West Virginia University professor says this underground lake is likely to be extremely salty and more acidic than battery acid. Life forms that can survive in extreme physical and geochemical conditions are found in abundance in acid salt lakes such as those in Chile and western Australia, she said.

Kathleen Benison
Professor, Dept. of Geology and Geography
WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

“Acid brines could easily exist as liquid on Mars because their composition makes them more compatible with Mars temperatures and atmosphere than pure H2O. Although the acid salt lakes in western Australia and Chile are among the most extreme waters on Earth today, they host a variety of extremophilic microorganisms, including novel bacteria, archaea, algae and fungi, that only live in acid brines. This strongly suggests that similar extremophilic life may be thriving today on Mars.”

Kathleen Benison audio file (1:08)

Contact info:; 989.954.0701

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