Life forms found in Mexico's underground crystals may be 50,000 years old

Researchers say they have been able to find microbes that have been suspended in underground cave crystals in Naica, Mexico, for up to 50,000 years, notes the BBC.

The work was led by the director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute, Penelope Boston, who said during a recent presentation, "These organisms have been dormant but viable for geologically significant periods of time, and they can be released due to other geological processes."

She also added, "This has profound effects on how we try to understand the evolutionary history of microbial life on this planet."

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However, National Geographic points out that "the work is currently being written up for publication and has not yet gone through the peer-review process."

Over the past several years, even before she joined NASA, Boston has been exploring the caves which contain ancient white gypsum crystals—some of which are up to 40-feet in length.

Part of the research has been to collect fluid from the crystals in order to identify the microbes that have been trapped inside.

She and others have said this work could lead to new potential antibiotics and medications, but it could also provide a glimpse into how life could perhaps evolve in other extreme conditions like Mars.

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