“Mushrooms on Mars?”

“Could there be mushrooms on Mars? In a new paper, an international team of scientists from countries including the U.S., France, and China have gathered and compared photographic evidence they claim shows fungus-like objects growing on the Red Planet.

In their paper, which appears in Scientific Research Publishing’s Advances in Microbiology, the scientists analyze images taken by NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, plus the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera. The objects in question show “chalky-white colored spherical shaped specimens,” which the Mars Opportunity team initially said was a mineral called hematite.”

“Later studies refuted the hematite claim. Soon, some scientists coined the term “Martian mushrooms” to describe the mysterious objects, because of how they resemble lichens and mushrooms, while in another study, fungi and lichen experts classified the spheres as “puffballs”—a white, spherical fungus belonging to the phylum Basidiomycota found on Earth.”

“In the new paper, the scientists point to a set of Opportunity photos that shows nine spheres increasing in size, and an additional 12 spheres emerging from beneath the soil, over a 3-day sequence. The researchers claim Martian wind didn’t uncover the amorphous spheres, and that they “expand in size, or conversely, change shape, move to new locations, and/or wane in size and nearly disappear.””

Comment: One can only hope. pl


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20 Responses to “Mushrooms on Mars?”

  1. Barbara Ann says:

    Oh let it be so and let them be tasty like truffles – the ultimate haute cuisine. I’d have thought Perseverance could be repurposed as a truffle hound to sniff them out.

    Unfortunately I expect this will turn out to be another false dawn like the Mars bacteria ‘discovery’ a few years ago. Chemical processes alone like gradual condensation and evaporation can cause spherical shapes to appear. Kidney ore hematite on Earth is precipitated in kind of spherical forms, hence the scientists’ first guess I expect. In the cold Martian climate with lower gravity and much lower atmospheric pressure transient spherical mineral formations of some size could be quite normal. I’d be interested to see a chemical only explanation. Very interesting nonetheless.

    • Mark Logan says:

      The interesting aspect of the hematite explanation is it is believed those formed here on earth with a biological process underwater, like stromatolites. The Rover was examining the bottom of what is believed to be an ancient lake bed.

  2. Leith says:

    Lin Carter was right in his Mysterious Mars book series. Or maybe half-right since the mushrooms he mentioned were reportedly giant sized and grown in some deep abyss IIRC.

    Did Burroughs mention mushrooms earlier in one of his Barsoom novels? I don’t remember.

  3. Deap says:

    Is it something we left behind from prior Mars missions, a minute contamination, that found a perfect environment with no competition?

    Creatures do live in the most extreme environments on planet earth – bottom of the deepest ocean or in geothermal vents.

    This is a very heady finding. Thanks for the alert.

  4. The Twisted Genius says:

    This phenomenon of unknown origin has been observed for well over a decade. Whether this is mushroom or mineral is a tremendously important question. NASA seems to be awfully nonchelant about getting to the bottom of the mystery. I thought one of the prime missions of all these rovers was to search for life.

  5. sbin says:

    Fungus is an amazing organism.
    The universe is alive.
    Silly to think earth is exceptional.
    I certainly enjoy living here but endlessly small and large.The finite can not comprehend the infinite.
    I sure enjoy the effort.

    • jld says:

      “Silly to think earth is exceptional.”

      EVERY planet is “exceptional” in some sense, i.e. the distribution of various chemicals is wildly different, so even if “life” (anything we might qualify as such) is common there is little chance that those different lifes look like earthly creatures and even have compatible biochemistry.
      Life on Earth is a bunch of strongly path-dependent frozen accidents among an astoundingly HUGE landscape of possible contraptions.
      See how Cambrian early creatures looked like:

  6. EEngineer says:

    They certainly look uncovered to me. There are many volcanic and meteoric processes that produce small glass spheres. That’s what I’d put my money on.

  7. The Twisted Genius says:

    Maybe this is a Martian version of yeast. Instead of consuming sugar, it could be converting some kind of salt or other mineral to CO2. Musk could start a brewery if that was the case. At least that would give his million man colony something to do. Or it could be a planetary version of mycelium producing these puffballs. The entire planet could be alive and linked into one enormous organism like our forests.

  8. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Speaking of unlikely things, here’s one for you:


    From the pen, and the teeming brain of Von Braun, no less…

    • Barbara Ann says:


      So Von Braun had an “Elon” ruling Mars 70 years ago – good find.

      I wonder if this is a case of causality disguised as coincidence. E.g. did Musk once hear of Von Braun’s mention an Elon in this role (not unlikely as it is a highly unusual name) and consequently resolve, consciously or otherwise, to dedicate his energies & wealth to Mars’ colonization? Alternatively, did Musk’s parents maybe read Von Braun’s book and like the name “Elon” for their son?

      • JerseyJeffersonian says:

        The credit for this find goes to Kevin, an American expatriate living in New Zealand, who is the owner of the blog, cryptogon.com.

        It is an interesting site, run by a fellow who is seemingly by fundamental nature a skeptic/contrarian. The posts/links there run the gamut from the offbeat, to those that are systemically (and sometimes compellingly) oppositional to the conventional wisdom, to those best categorized as whoo whoo. Oftimes I find these posts/links to be thought provoking, but at other times, to be things which evoke no resonance with me. It’s a big ol’ funny world, innit?

  9. Leith says:

    Bill Hillman’s website for E. R. Burroughs fans mentions the Martian mushrooms of Lin Carter’s books.

    “- Yhoom – in literal fact, a giant underground cavern of immense size, miles below Iliornis, lit by seven spheres arranged in a ring. It is reached through an immense stairway leading down from the principal temple of Iliornis. From the staircase, there is a path lit by saffron, leading to a forest of gigantic mushrooms, known as the Abyss of Yhuu, which leads to the bridge of Fire, actually composed of luminous jewels or crystals.”

    But has no mention of shrooms by Burroughs. Unless his blood drinking Plant Men of Barsoom’s Valley Dor are fungi?


  10. Deap says:

    Astro-biology is actually a legitimate, though minor and controversial, branch of science; not just the stuff of science fiction. Did life on planet earth evolve from from a microbial asteroid dropping into our primordial soup?

    The Smithsonian had an exhibit once featuring Julia Childs explaining how to make “primordial soup” in her TV kitchen, with the speculation a bolt of lightening could have sparked the evolutionary process.

  11. Deap says:

    Julia Childs mixes up a batch of primordial soup: https://www.thekitchn.com/julia-child-makes-primordial-s-96288

    • Deap says:

      Sorry, Julia Child video link no longer available. But more about this popular episode from the Smithsonian Magazine: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/julia-child-and-the-primordial-soup-35465592/

      Did it get “cancelled” for some sinister reasons? Or just trademark.

      • Leith says:

        Julia was jokingly recreating ‘stone soup’. That story comes from an old Serbian folk tale. It’s about an old soldier coming home from the war who stops at a peasant cottage.

        They tell him they have no food to share with him for dinner. So he says ok, I’ll just make some stone soup, which we used to eat in the trenches. This piques their interest and they watch. After he boils a few rocks, he tastes it and says hmm must need a bit of salt. The peasants oblige. He tastes it again and says it might need a bay leaf. The peasants oblige. This goes on and on with cabbage, onions, bacon, etc until he has a full bodied stew bubbling away.

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