"The precipitated minerals could only have been formed in such an acidic environment like this one and it is still even home to microbial communities in development. In order words, here they find their ideal environment," says Gmez.
According to the study, "the discovery of these protected microniches in one of Mars' analogue on Earth, like Ro Tinto, is an important step in evaluating the habitability potential of the red planet."
NASA's Mars Global Surveyor probe has already detected alluvial fan-shaped salt formations on the Martian surface and scientists believe that that they could exist below the frozen ocean of one of Jupiter's satellites, Europa.
"From the astrological point of view, salt deposits are of great importance and should be considered when searching for life on space exploration missions, like the current Curiosity rover mission on Mars," concludes Gmez. In fact, salt deposits of astrobiological interest have been found not far from where the NASA rover is.
On Earth the CAB team has also studied extreme salt environments in Chott el Djerid Lake (Tunisia) and under the Atacama Desert (Chile).
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology