Microbes hide out in desert ‘til the rain comes

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In Germany, researchers from Universität Berlin discovered that Chile’s Atacama Desert wasn’t so dry and devoid of life after all. After a rare rainstorm, they found living microbes in the soil, even though it is one of the driest places on Earth. For years, researchers thought DNA found in the soil were leftover skeletal parts but after recent storms that produced a few centimeters of rain on the desert “woke up” those microbes and caused a microbial “superbloom.” They found a mix of “extremophile archaea, bacteria and fungi that were tolerant of desiccation, salinity and UV radiation,” according to Science News.

Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist at the Technische Universität Berlin, told Science News, “That storm initially threw a wrench into plans for scientists to get a snapshot of microbial life under normal, hyperarid conditions in the Atacama. But in the end, it came back as a lucky stroke.”