A Mud Lake on Mars Might be Hiding Signs of Life in Chaotic Terrain, New Study Suggests

After searching for signs of life on Mars for decades without getting any results, scientists are considering extending the search for biosignatures in a region they believe to have hosted mud lake on Mars in the past. Planetary scientists closely studied this region they believed to have moist remnants of an equatorial mud lake on Mars.

They studied the Hydraotes Chaos and suggested that a buried amount of water flowed upwards onto the surface. However, the researchers have yet to confirm this study practically. But if the scientists are correct, hence, future missions would be focused on tracing signs of life on Mars following a different approach.

“While Martian lakes and mud volcanoes have been subjects of prior studies, our work represents the first comprehensive analysis specifically focused on a putative mud lake,” Alexis Rodriguez, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona, told Space.com.

Planetary scientists suggest that the surface water on the red planet froze completely about 3.7 billion years ago. Surface water freeze on Mars was believed to be caused by the Martian thin atmosphere and its cooled surface.

However, scientists suggest that underground and groundwater might remain in liquid form in massive chambers beneath the Martian surface. If this is correct, then life forms might have evolved in those chambers leaving behind traces of their existence.

Researchers discovered that the system of aquifers broke down in Hydraotes Chaos, which led to floods of massive proportions that dumped huge amounts of sediment on the surface in about 3.4 billion years ago, the study claims. Hence, future missions could possibly study that sediment for signs of life on Mars someday.

How The Team Conducted Their Study About Mud Lake on Mars

Alexis Rodriguez and team studied the images of Hydraotes Chaos captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to advance the search for biosignatures on the red planet. The Hydraotes Chaos is a perfect example of geography known as chaos terrain. The team spotted a calm circle of flat ground amid the chaotic terrain’s maelstrom.

The flat plain has cones and domes, suggesting that mud bubbling might be coming from underground. This discovery also suggests that sediment did not arrive through a rushing flash flood. However, they rose to the surface from underground. The team even created simulations to suggest how Hydraotes Chaos covered a massive amount of buried biosignature-rich.

Hence, the study claims that the Hydraotes Chaos formed thick ice sheets over underneath water. Mars’ internal heat could have melted the ice, making water bubble upwards and rise to the surface to create the visible muddy lake on Mars. As the underneath water undergoes this process, it would have dumped all those fascinating biosignatures.

The researchers believed that water might remain underground after megafloods that occurred on Mars. The results published by the authors reveal that the sediments on the surface of this mud lates could be traced from around 1.1 billion years ago. This is a long time after most of Mars’ water must have flooded out, which possibly occurred a long time ago when the red planet was still habitable.

Considering the timeline Rodriguez and colleagues plan to study what lies under the surface of the lake. The team published the result of their investigation on Oct. 18 in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

What’s Next

NASA’s Ames Research Center is currently working on an instrument known as Extractor for Chemical Analysis of Lipid Biomarkers in Regolith (EXCALIBR) that would test extraterrestrial rocks for biosignatures. Hence, NASA might include EXCALIBR in its future missions to the moon and Mars. “Hydraotes Chaos is under consideration as a candidate landing site for [EXCALIBR],” Rodriguez told Space.com.


Planetary scientists recently studied the Hydraotes Chaos which are believed to have moist remnants of an equatorial mud lake on Mars. They studied the Hydraotes Chaos and suggested that a buried amount of water flowed upwards onto the surface. What do you think about this groundbreaking study?

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