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Found in Mono Lake: Bizarro Bacterium Can Build Its DNA With Arsenic

December 3rd, 2010 12:47 admin Leave a comment Go to comments

The science world is abuzz with news of a strange new life form found in California’s Mono Lake: Researchers report that they’ve discovered a bacterium that can not only thrive in an arsenic-rich environment, it can actually use that arsenic to build its DNA. If the researchers, who published their findings in Science, are correct, then they’ve found a form of life unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

As you might expect, DISCOVER’s blogs offered plenty of coverage of this exciting news.

At The Loom, Carl Zimmer writes: “Scientists have found a form of life that they claim bends the rules for life as we know it. But they didn’t need to go to another planet to find it. They just had to go to California.”

At Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait explains exactly how the bacteria can make use of arsenic to build their DNA. A few days ago, Phil also took NASA to task for its press release promising news of “an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life,” which fueled wild speculation on whether NASA had found little green men in the solar system.

At Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong debunks a few of the more breathless accounts. The bacteria do not “belong to a second branch of life on Earth…. They aren’t a parallel branch of life; they’re very much part of the same tree that the rest of us belong to. That doesn’t, however, make them any less extraordinary.”

At Gene Expression, Razib Khan has more thoughts on the wild speculation that preceded the announcement–which he compares to the hype surrounding the unveiling of the Segway.

Source: Found in Mono Lake: Bizarro Bacterium Can Build Its DNA With Arsenic

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