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Published April 21, 1972 | public
Journal Article

Microbiology of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica


The dry valleys of South Victoria Land, Antarctica, together with a few other ice-free areas on the perimeter of the Antarctic continent, form what is generally considered to be the most extreme cold-desert region of the earth. During the past S years, we have been interested in the dry valleys as a model environment for investigating questions connected with the biological exploration o£ Mars. The extraordinary aridity of the region, its low temperature, and its geographical isolation give it a quasimartian character, although it is to be understood that the actual martian environment is still more hostile than that of the valleys. With our associates, we have investigated the kinds, numbers, and distribution of soil microorganisms in the valleys in order to gain insight into the practical problems of searching for life in an extreme environment. Detailed results of these studies have been published by Cameron and co-workers (1-5). In this-article, we review the major findings of our own and of other groups of investigators in this region, especially as they apply to martian exploration.

Additional Information

© 1972 American Association for the Advancement of Science. This article presents the results of one phase of research carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, under NASA contract NAS 7-100. Logistic support and facilities for the Antarctic part of this study were provided by the Office of Antarctic Programs of the National Science Foundation under contract C-585. We thank H. Conrow, D. Gensel, A. Miller, and P. Morelli for valuable assistance.

Additional details

August 19, 2023
October 20, 2023