Snot-ites and space snot

Imagine: you go into a deep, dark cave and your hand touches slime. Then you find there is slime dripping from the roof – slime like snot. Eurgh! It’s like something from a horror movie. But it’s real. You’re in a cave festooned with snot-ites.

Snot-ites are long, gooey drips of snot-like slime that hang from the walls of caves. They are made by bacteria, which produce the snot to protect themselves from harmful chemicals. Where there are lots of bacteria, there is so much slime it coats the walls, and drips in strands from the ceiling.

Scientists studying the snot in New Mexico and in the lava tubes of Hawaii say the microbes can live in areas with so much carbon dioxide that humans can’t go there without breathing apparatus. They think the snot-producing bacteria might give us a clue to life elsewhere in space. There might be similar snot-makers living below the surface of moons or other planets in the solar system or beyond. Learning the chemical signatures of snotty bacteria will help us to spot similar life-forms elsewhere.

Learn more about snot-making bacteria and snot-ites from NASA.

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