Cellular intelligence on Martian surface
Physarum polycephalum (here after physarum), commonly known as “blob”, is an example of plasmodial myxomycetes (commonly named plasmodial slime molds) that consists of a multinucleate single cell amoeba like organism. Its size is commonly of a few centimeters of diameter, and it can move within speeds of few centimeters per hour. This curious creature shows rare learning capabilities for a single celled organism. During its plasmodial state, the physarum explores its surroundings in search of food. It is capable of memorizing its previous path and of finding the optimum one towards the food sources. Slime molds are not only surprising for its learning capabilities but for being extremely resistant: in the lack of food supplies or adverse environmental conditions, they produce spores that are highly resistant to harsh environment and can stay dormant for decades waiting for the proper conditions to germinate.
Physarum has long been used as a model system for study of cell cycle, differentiation and other cell biological topics. Its life cycle state and behavior being easily observable at naked eye makes physarum a good candidate to study how cells respond to the environment. Mars is about 1.4 times further from the Sun than the Earth is. For this reason, the radiant power of the Sun on the martian surface is 50% the one on Earth surface. Moreover, lacking a thick atmosphere containing in H2O and O3 the Martian surface is highly exposed to UV and higher influenced by IR radiation than the Earth surface. Furthermore, Mars does not have a global magnetic filed to deflect high energetic particles. Thus, Mars surface is highly exposed to X and gamma rays.
Physarum has shown to be very sensible to light. It can slow down the process of exploration of the plasmodium and trigger the production of spores. This research aims at studying the influence of UV, visible and infrared radiation on the exploration behavior and sporulation triggering of physarum. If physarum was exposed to radiation similar to that on Mars, how these life processes will be affected? Will this research give us some clues on how life on Mars can be developed? Will it further give us some clues about life development on Earth before atmosphere formation?