I have recently found myself to be slightly bored with some of my posts to this blog, so I decided to spice things up a little. In this post, I will relate the study of geology to the study of biology, and try to explain how the two disciplines can interact to result in some very, very interesting outcomes.
Before I go into how geology and biology are related, I would like to show you these really awesome pictures, since each of them should speak a thousand words:
Wow, colorful, right? I know the title of this post probably gave the secret away, but it turns out that that really bright stuff is actually bug poop!!! So why is this even significant? Well, let me explain…
When the research team first saw all them, scientists initially attributed these colorful conglomerations on the walls to a geologic mystery. Only after this team began searching for life in these caves did they discover what these deposits truly are. One scientist, Northup, has been studying this poop under microscopes since 1994. That’s 16 years, which is a long time to look at bug poop. Anyway, she and her team were collecting samples of these droppings, and testing them for DNA. Finally, in October 2009 (3 months ago), she announced that these colorful globs were matted specimens of microbial waste.
The caves that are home to the wonderful microbial creatures that deposit their colorful waste are actually lava tubes. A lava tube is formed when a chamber that lava usesd to travel through becomes inactive, and only the tunnel is left.
Scientists have studied these lava tubes, especially the ones found in this particular archipelago, in order to learn more about aliens that live on Mars. I know, you’re probably thinking the same thing I did when I first read about all this: “What can you learn from bug poop in an old lava hole? And how do aliens relate to this?” Before you jump to your own crazy conclusions, let me explain…
The scientists who studied the lava tubes at Hawaii, New Mexico, and the Portuguese Azores islands were looking for one thing: cave dwelling creatures. Why? Well, according to one geochemist from Kansas State University, any life found in these lava tubes could be used to study the possibility of life in lava tubes on other planets. Evidence of these lava tubes has been seen in photographs taken in a 2007 mission to Mars in the form of dark holes. This group of scientists believes that water could have collected in these caves, and provided sustenance for theoretical microbial, or larger, life.
Overall, I think this is pretty cool, and if I could get paid to look at poop and think about aliens all day. I would become a geologist.