Agriculture
Making the most of a meal
New Gene Fights Potato Blight
Silk’s superpowers
Amphibians
Salamanders and Newts
Toads
Salamanders
Animals
A Wild Ferret Rise
A Jellyfish's Blurry View
Walktopus
Behavior
Slumber by the numbers
Copycat Monkeys
Sugar-pill medicine
Birds
Kingfishers
Finches
Hummingbirds
Chemistry and Materials
Moon Crash, Splash
Big Machine Reveals Small Worlds
A Diamond Polish for Ancient Tools
Computers
Programming with Alice
The solar system's biggest junkyard
Toxic Dirt + Avian Flu = Science Fair Success
Dinosaurs and Fossils
Dino Takeout for Mammals
Digging Dinos
Fossil Fly from Antarctica
E Learning Jamaica
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Earth
Detecting an Eerie Sea Glow
Sky Dust Keeps Falling on Your Head
Slower Growth, Greater Warmth
Environment
Saving Wetlands
A Vulture's Hidden Enemy
Spotty Survival
Finding the Past
Fakes in the museum
Little People Cause Big Surprise
Sahara Cemetery
Fish
Skates and Rays
Sting Ray
Tuna
Food and Nutrition
Building a Food Pyramid
Eat Out, Eat Smart
Food for Life
GSAT English Rules
Whoever vs. Whomever
Who vs. That vs. Which
Order of Adjectives
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
The Annual GSAT Scholarships
Scotiabank Jamaica Foundation Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) Scholarships
Ministry of Education Announces 82 GSAT Scholarships for 2010
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
GSAT Scholarship
GSAT Mathematics
Secrets of an Ancient Computer
10 Common Mistakes When Preparing for the GSAT Math Test
Math is a real brain bender
Human Body
Foul Play?
Heart Revival
Workouts: Does Stretching Help?
Invertebrates
Snails
Krill
Clams
Mammals
Domestic Shorthairs
Grizzly Bear
Echidnas
Parents
How children learn
Children and Media
Expert report highlights the importance to parents of reading to children!
Physics
IceCube Science
Invisibility Ring
The Pressure of Scuba Diving
Plants
Farms sprout in cities
Tracking the Sun Improves Plant Pollen
Hungry bug seeks hot meal
Reptiles
Box Turtles
Chameleons
Boa Constrictors
Space and Astronomy
Supernovas Shed Light on Dark Energy
Killers from Outer Space
Melting Snow on Mars
Technology and Engineering
Bionic Bacteria
Young Scientists Take Flight
Sugar Power for Cell Phones
The Parts of Speech
What is a Preposition?
Pronouns
Adjectives and Adverbs
Transportation
Seen on the Science Fair Scene
Troubles with Hubble
How to Fly Like a Bat
Weather
In Antarctica watch the heat (and your step)
A Dire Shortage of Water
A Change in Climate
Add your Article

Salty, Old and, Perhaps, a Sign of Early Life

It's hard to believe today, but millions of years ago the dusty New Mexico desert was covered by a shimmering ocean. That ocean water evaporated long ago. But it left behind huge deposits of salt. Some of those salt deposits contain tiny pockets of trapped ancient ocean water—super salty time capsules of an era before dinosaurs ever walked on Earth. Now, a team of scientists has found the oldest-known biological molecules inside some of those briny salt-water pockets. The team analyzed samples of salt mined deep underground in southeastern New Mexico. They found molecules of cellulose—the tough, fiber-like molecule that makes up plant cell walls. Algae and some bacteria also make cellulose. Because the molecule is made by living organisms, its presence in the salt deposit is evidence that some kind of ancient organism made the cellulose trapped inside. To identify the cellulose molecules, the scientists removed material from inside the salt-water pockets. They placed the material in a hot solution of two chemicals, sodium hydroxide and sodium borohydride. This harsh solution dissolves all known biological materials except cellulose. The material didn't dissolve, telling the scientists that the material in the salt deposits was most likely cellulose. As an additional step, the researchers also mixed the material with a cellulose-digesting enzyme. This time, the material quickly dissolved. Taken together, these results give strong support to the scientists' conclusion that the salt-water pockets contain cellulose. The research team used radioactive dating to determine that the salt crystals—and the cellulose inside of them—formed more than 250 million years ago. In all that time, the crystals have hardly changed. The findings tell the research team that ancient salt deposits like these might be ideal for preserving ancient molecules, which are signs of early life. A challenge to researchers looking for evidence of long-extinct living things is that the molecules that made up their bodies usually broke down because of exposure to sunlight, wind, water or other living things that digested them. The salt-pocket cellulose tells another story: Buried deep below Earth's surface, the encased cellulose molecules are protected from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation and other harsh conditions. Such salt-water pockets might be ideal places to look for signs of long-gone life forms—both here on Earth and on other planets. Scientists in a field called astrobiology are especially interested in these old cellulose molecules. Astrobiology is the study of life in the universe. Many astrobiologists focus on finding the best ways to search for life on other planets, aiming to answer questions about life in space—Does it exist now, and did it ever exist in the past? It's a good question, and one that's hard to answer. After all, where would you start looking on Mars if you wanted to look for signs of life? As it turns out, both Mars and Jupiter's moon Europa once had oceans—just like the New Mexico desert. Do they have similar salt deposits? No one knows for sure. But if planets and moons do, they might give scientists a good target to look for signs of past life.—Jennifer Cutraro Power Words From The American Heritage® Student Science Dictionary, The American Heritage® Children's Science Dictionary, and other sources. brine or briny Water containing large amounts of salt. cellulose A carbohydrate that is the main component of the cell walls of plants. It is insoluble in water and is used to make paper, cellophane, textiles, explosives and other products. digestion The process by which food is broken down into simple chemical compounds that can be absorbed and used in the body. enzyme Any of the proteins produced in living cells that act as catalysts in the metabolic processes of an organism. Europa The sixth moon of the planet Jupiter. Jupiter The planet that is fifth in distance from the sun. Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system and has the shortest day, lasting less than 10 hours. Mars The planet that is fourth in distance from the sun. Mars is the third smallest planet in the solar system and is similar to Earth. radioactive dating A technique for measuring the age of a material based on the spontaneous breakdown of a radioactive nucleus into a lighter nucleus. ultraviolet radiation Electromagnetic radiation that has wavelengths shorter than those of visible light but longer than those of X-rays. Ultraviolet light is given off by the sun but is invisible.

Salty, Old and, Perhaps, a Sign of Early Life
Salty, Old and, Perhaps, a Sign of Early Life








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™