Nonnobacteria - The Pre-Biotic Chemistry Of Life
By James Donahue
A lot of us remember the declaration by scientists about ten years ago that evidence of life was found
in fossils embedded in a meteorite that landed in the Antarctic snow after being somehow catapulted off the planet Mars.
When shown pictures of this amazing discovery, we saw magnified photos of worm-like creatures identified
as ALH 8481. What we didn't realize as we looked at the images was that these things were so tiny, they were barely captured
by some of the world's most powerful microscopes. They were smaller than cells, smaller than a virus, and so tiny they could
only be seen through the lense of telescopes that probably didn't exist until quite recently.
For those that want specifics, the worms on the Martian meteorite measured about 0.1 to 0.4 micrometers
The fact that such things were found in Martian rock led Robert L. Folk, Professor Emeritus at University
of Texas, to wonder if similar things could be found in the rocks on Planet Earth. He looked, and sure enough, he not only
found the fossilized remains of tiny critters, he found some of them not fossilized, but apparently "alive" and well.
For lack of any other thing to call them, Folk's discovery has been dubbed "nannobacteria." He reports
that nannobacteria are found just about everywhere. They are in the rocks, in hot-spring waters, decaying leaves, and even
in space. The Universe appears to be alive with it.
Since his discoveries Folk has launched a great deal of debate among scientists as to whether nannobacteria
are a newly discovered form of life. Some say they are too small to contain a complete nucleus of a cell, and therefore cannot
be alive. Others have concluded that they are not only alive, but like the virus, may be responsible for a range of human
A scientific team led by Dr. John Lieske at the Mayo Clinic recently analyzed calcified and non-calcified
arteries, arterial plaques and heart valves collected as surgical waste from two different hospitals. In the lab they used
high power electron microscopes to study the tissue, and lo . . . they found nannobacteria.
Not only that, but the team found, as reported in the American Journal of Physiology,
that the "nanoparticles" were multiplying. Thus they argued that they had to be identified as a life form.
Thus it appears that these minute particles, or "pre-biotic chemistry" exists everywhere
in space and is the stuff from which life springs when conditions are right.
The stuff is everywhere, even on Mars, although the planet never harbored life as we know it because
the planet was never a good environment for life. But the Earth was a different matter.
That all of life has gone extinct more than once in the history of this planet and then sprung back
again is a mute testimony to the work of this pre-biotic chemistry that exists even deep in the rocks.
This is the stuff of the Living Earth. It can be found everywhere, even in space. Thus the very Universe
appears to be alive, as are the suns, planets and moons. This could be one of the greatest discoveries we have ever made,
and it is so small that if it hadn't been for our ability to manufacture microscopes of incredible power, we might have missed