NASA Scientists Disover New Life Form

Complete reblog from Atheist Media.

From Gizmodo:

NASA has discovered a new life form, a bacteria called GFAJ-1 that is unlike anything currently living in planet Earth. It’s capable of using arsenic to build its DNA, RNA, proteins, and cell membranes. This changes everything. Updated.

NASA is saying that this is “life as we do not know it”. The reason is that all life on Earth is made of six components: Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.

That was true until today. In a surprising revelation, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe-Simon and her team have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today, working differently than the rest of the organisms in the planet. Instead of using phosphorus, the newly discovered microorganism—called GFAJ-1 and found in Mono Lake, California—uses the poisonous arsenic for its building blocks. Arsenic is an element poisonous to every other living creature in the planet except for a few specialized microscopic creatures.
Read more

Via Atheist Media

***UPDATE***

As Kilre so helpfully pointed out in the comments, this discovery isn’t as big as it’s purported to be. PZ Myers explains it here. I should have been a little more skeptical after I saw comments from AatRB Julie on facebook. That’s what I get for not researching what I post.

I should have also red flagged that the story came from Gizmodo, a web site with a penchant for yellow journalism worse than Fox News.

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4 thoughts on “NASA Scientists Disover New Life Form

  1. Not to be a total downer, but PZ did a takedown of the NASA release: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/12/its_not_an_arsenic-based_life.php

    “And then I finally got the paper from Science, and I’m sorry to let you all down, but it’s none of the above. It’s an extremophile bacterium that can be coaxed into substiting arsenic for phosphorus in some of its basic biochemistry. It’s perfectly reasonable and interesting work in its own right, but it’s not radical, it’s not particularly surprising, and it’s especially not extraterrestrial. It’s the kind of thing that will get a sentence or three in biochemistry textbooks in the future.”

    1. Figures. It read like it was too good to be true.

      I think I saw that headline yesterday, but I didn’t read it.

      Thanks for the heads up. I’ll update the post.

  2. Whatever the bacteria is, it is nothing new. It’s only new as we, humans, just found it or became aware of the specie. With time, we –humans, bacterias, viruses and animals — are bound to evolve and adapt to the environment. Ready for X-Men to become a reality? Also, consider the number of species in the Amazon Rainforest that are unseen, uncatalogue and evolving.

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