Those tube-shaped worms, that are also called a farmer's best friend, thrive in the soil present on Earth and hence known as Earthworms. But have you ever wondered what if they are found in Martian soil? If yes, will they be named Marsworms?
Well, this could be a reality as scientists have successfully grown earthworms in a Mars soil simulant. The advance hints at the possibility of life and future human colonies on the red planet.
An experiment on a Mars soil was conducted at Wageningen University & Research Centre in The Netherlands, where two young worms were grown. They are the first offspring in a Mars soil experiment.
The study was conducted in order to determine whether humans can grow their own crops on Mars soil to keep themselves alive on the red planet.
According to researchers, the earthworms break down and recycle dead organic matter and hence can play a key role in a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem which will be a necessity to feed humans on Mars.
"To feed future humans on Mars a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem is a necessity. Worms will play a crucial role in this system as they break down and recycle dead organic matter," researchers said.
NASA provided the growth of rucola plants in Mars soil simulant to the researchers, who observed and added worms and pig slurry.
"Clearly the manure stimulated growth, especially in the Mars soil simulant, and we saw that the worms were active," said Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen University & Research.
"However, the best surprise came at the end of the experiment when we found two young worms in the Mars soil simulant," said Wamelink.
For a healthy soil, worms are very important, not only on Earth but also in future indoor gardens on Mars or the Moon.
The Earthworms live on dead organic matter like plant remains. They eat and chew them and mix them with the soil.
By digging burrows the worms also aerate and improve the structure of the soil, making watering the plants more effective.
“The latter proved to be very important in earlier experiments where water would not easily penetrate the soil. The application of worms will solve this problem," Wamelink said.
However, further research would be required to understand the growth of such life forms in low gravity conditions.
(With inputs from PTI)