Scientists Believe These Photos Show Mushrooms on Mars—and Proof of Life [Popular Mechanics]

Maiden Voyage

Gold™ Member

Cool stuff here.

Scientists claim NASA photos show mushrooms growing on Mars.
In their paper, the scientists analyze a variety of images taken by NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, as well as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera.
Mushrooms could be great for multiple purposes for Mars settlers.

Could there be mushrooms on Mars? In a new paper, an international team of scientists from countries including the U.S., France, and China have gathered and compared photographic evidence they claim shows fungus-like objects growing on the Red Planet.

In their paper, which appears in Scientific Research Publishing’s Advances in Microbiology, the scientists analyze images taken by NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, plus the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera. The objects in question show “chalky-white colored spherical shaped specimens,” which the Mars Opportunity team initially said was a mineral called hematite.
Later studies refuted the hematite claim. Soon, some scientists coined the term “Martian mushrooms” to describe the mysterious objects, because of how they resemble lichens and mushrooms, while in another study, fungi and lichen experts classified the spheres as “puffballs”—a white, spherical fungus belonging to the phylum Basidiomycota found on Earth.
In the new paper, the scientists point to a set of Opportunity photos that shows nine spheres increasing in size, and an additional 12 spheres emerging from beneath the soil, over a 3-day sequence. The researchers claim Martian wind didn’t uncover the amorphous spheres, and that they “expand in size, or conversely, change shape, move to new locations, and/or wane in size and nearly disappear.”

The scientists continue:

“Many of these ground-level spherical specimens also have stalks or have shed portions of their outer membranes—possibly crustose—and are surrounded by white chunks and fluffy spore-like material that may consist of leprose.”
Crustose and leprose are kinds of fungus surface textures, where crust or scales form and can flake away.

The presence of these peripheral parts is important, the scientists say, because it helps them make the case that what we’re seeing really is fungus instead of simply some spherical rocks. Mushrooms grow and reproduce like gangbusters—it’s one of the defining characteristics of the entire family of fungi. Small mushrooms grow in about a day, while large mushrooms take up to 4 days.
In their research, the scientists carefully document all the ways their proposed fungi change from one photo to the next. “White amorphous mass alters shape, location, and almost completely disappears from inside the crevice of a rock shelter over a three day (Sol) period,” they explain of one image set, shown below.

Besides something like a gust of wind blowing away loose sand, fungi are one of the only living things that could experience such noticeable growth and change in just a few days.
The scientists acknowledge the “evidence” they present isn’t ironclad, and seem to predict the scrutiny that will inevitably come with their paper, writing that “similarities in morphology are not proof of life.”

“It is possible that all the specimens presented here are abiotic. We cannot completely rule out minerals, weathering, and unknown geological forces that are unique to Mars and unknown and alien to Earth. However, growth, movement, alterations in location and shape, constitute behavior, and coupled with life-like morphology, strongly support the hypothesis there is life on Mars.”

But if there really were mushrooms on Mars, what would that mean in a future where humans hope to settle on the Red Planet? Well, the scientists say many fungi on Earth are also extremophiles—meaning organisms that can thrive in conditions considered “extreme” in terms of the usual building blocks of life. So to find mushrooms on Mars is perhaps less surprising than we think.
In his 2018 novel Red Moon, Kim Stanley Robinson imagined a moon settlement with fast-growing bamboo as its primary building material. It’s not hard to imagine fungus used as anything from a building material, to an insulator, to even a hypothetical food source for Mars residents or their livestock animals.

EviLore EviLore points out below, there may be no merit to these claims:
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Expansive Ellipses
Staff Member
Started doing some background research on the paper and the people involved, but I see there's already a Cnet article that went into it and tore it apart.

Advances in Microbiology is a relatively obscure journal published by Scientific Research Publishing, which is headquartered in China and has previously been caught out for republishing scientific articles, according to Nature. It has been accused of being a predatory publisher, charging scientists fees to be published in its journals without checking the quality of the submitted papers.

The new paper, dubbed "Fungi on Mars? Evidence of Growth and Behavior From Sequential Images" and available on ResearchGate, rehashes some of the old arguments for life on Mars, using inaccurate methodology to draw its conclusions. For the most part, Joseph and his co-authors use images obtained by NASA rovers and draw red lines and arrows to point out features they believe correspond to fungal growth.

"Claiming that mushrooms are sprouting all over Mars is an extraordinary claim that requires better evidence than an analysis of photographic morphology by a known crank who has claimed, on the basis of the same kind of analysis, that he has seen fields of skulls on Mars," says Paul Myers, a developmental biologist at the University of Minnesota, Morris, who has followed Joseph's work in the past.

One experiment, performed by the authors, is to analyze the size and movement of "spherical specimens" in the paper. It routinely references previous work by Joseph as evidence for its conclusions. The team suggests it "would be surprising" if there were no life on Mars -- but this is not true. We have mountains of data showing the conditions of Mars are not conducive to life as we know it. Could fungi get around these conditions? Perhaps, but the evidence for that is thin.

After being alerted to the new paper on Wednesday, I sent emails to the associate editors-in-chief of Advances in Microbiology, asking for clarification around the peer review process. They have not responded to requests for comment.

I also emailed members of the editorial board listed on SCIRP's website, including Jian Li, a microbiologist at Monash University in Australia. He says he has not been on the journal's editorial board "for at least five to six years" and has not handled any of the papers in the journal.

Looks like quackery.


Got excited there for a bit but the comparison pic was super misleading as it shows earth mushrooms in the image without making it clear enough that its an earth picture.


They look like the typical beads formed by some kind of blast where something melted, like after a meteor impact.

It seems like that chances mushrooms would exist with intense radiation and no real atmosphere are extremely slim. It's a giant conclusion to leap to.

Bitmap Frogs

Mr. Community
So there’s no laser or sensor on these rovers to determine if something is biological? I mean, FTIR could determine if there was protein.

The argument nasa makes is that of a staggered approach since space on these rovers is at a premium.

So you first caracterise Mars, locate spots were remains of life might be detectable, investigate them and if you find something particularly interesting then you send a rover specifically to confirm if something is alive.

This whole approach is designed to avoid another inconclusive fiasco from the OGs, the Viking missions.


Dude, if there was anything like this, NASA would have found it first, and they would have revealed this information already. It's not like they've spend literally billions of dollars in pursuit of this very thing, to have some random nobodies try to scoop them with some random images. If/when NASA finds any life on Mars, it will come with not only images, but also chemical analysis from the myriad of tools onboard the rovers.


People have been coming out for years saying there is life on Mars.

I used to have loads of stuff like this save on YT but it's all deleted.
Something is off with Mars and we are being lied to.
Two things! We have people on Mars already or its all a scam and Mars is being faked on earth.
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He has sued NASA over this:

On a slightly different topic, I just recently watched the Korean series, Life on Mars, which I was intrigued about, when I heard the name, but strangely enough it has nothing to do with red planet. The Korean show is actually based on a same name British show. Anyway, I really enjoyed watching the single and only season of the Korean version of that show. It was unique with an interesting cast of characters. Highly recommend it.
There was an American version too!

No mushrooms were harmed in the filming I understand.


He has sued NASA over this:

On a slightly different topic, I just recently watched the Korean series, Life on Mars, which I was intrigued about, when I heard the name, but strangely enough, has nothing to do with the red planet. The Korean show is actually based on a same name British show. Anyway, I really enjoyed watching the single and only season of the Korean version of that show. It was unique with an interesting cast of characters. Highly recommend it.
I really liked the original British series. It had some classic moments and as drab as the 70s was, it doesn't get covered much so it was good to see.

I've heard about the Korean version and that it's quite good. I should give it a watch.
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