Life on Other Planets from a Biological Perspective: From the Ocean Floor

About the biological perspective of life on other planets taking into account the forms life takes, consider life from the ocean floor under extreme pressure.

Life on Other Planets: Another View

In 1951, Dr. Anton Brunn's Danish ship Galathea II voyaged to the Mindanao Trench, east of the Philippines, where a 34,578' depth was found. "Before the expedition started," Brunn later recalled, "laboratory tests had suggested no life could possibly survive under pressure greater than those experienced at 25,000' below sea level."

However, when a sample of the bottom at 33,462' was hauled aboard the Galathea, Brunn found startling evidence of the life at great depths: bacteria, sea anemones, mollusks, and a minute crustacean. (One of the mollusks the Galathea dredged up was thought to have been extinct for 300 million years. This cap-shaped ancestor of the venerable clam was named Neopilina galatheae in honor of the ship. Biologists could not have been more confounded if a brontosaurus had stridden out of an unexplored jungle.)

Beyond our earth, we may encounter alien forms that are incomprehensible. These forms could be so strange and unfathomable that, as George Gaylord Simpson has said, "We might well fail to recognize them as living or might have to revise our conception of what life is." Simpson, one of the world's greatest authorities on evolution, further wrote, "'Life as we do not know it,' if recognized at all, might have to be recognized as a 3rd fundamental kind of configuration and not, strictly speaking, as life."

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