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Fossils On Other Planets


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Considering the theory of life on other planets, does anybody think that depending on how long life had been around, and the conditions, would anything become fossilized on other planets?

If so, would humans ever be able to excavate them? We'd have to improve our space travel, but would we?

Its kind of a nice idea. What if fossils aren't confined to our planet alone...

Imagine the incredible species we'd discover. Its fun to think about what they would look like.

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Any organisms discovered on planets within our solar system or some other one (when that day comes) will have to have evolved and will have left some trace evidence in whatever strata they are discovered in. Whether their composition will create fossil remains is certainly something scientists are interested in. Thanks for generating some conversation on this.

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Given the infinite nature of things, I will state with confidence that Earth is not the only planet in the universe with fossils.

The likelihood of an Earthling ever laying eyes on them is quite a bit lower, though.

"There has been an alarming increase in the number of things I know nothing about." - Ashleigh Ellwood Brilliant

“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” - Thomas Henry Huxley

>Paleontology is an evolving science.

>May your wonders never cease!

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Here's a random selection of extraterrestrial life stuff for you to investigate...


Possible discovery of microbe fossils from Mars on a Martian meteorite?



NASA searches for fossils on Mars...



Are we Martians? Could life have started on Mars, then been transported here by impact debris, and then become extinguished on Mars?



The Theory of Panspermia; life spreading through the universe by debris or other methods...


We used to laugh at this theory several decades ago, but it is seriously considered now-a-days. It was presented as something to think about on that popular TV science series "Cosmos" this year.



I rebind antiquarian books as a hobby, and I found this one really funny/interesting. It is "Other Worlds Than Ours" by the famous astronomer and physicist Richard Proctor. It was written in 1870 and contains speculations about what type of life would be on each planet of our solar system. The book is unique in containing the first printed map of Mars. Being 144 years old, it contains many things we would consider to be humorous today, but also some logical speculation about life on other planets. Read this one for more of a historical perspective rather than a modern science interpretation.


So people have been speculating on this idea for a long time.

Edited by tmaier
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There are two shapes that I would expect to find in any advanced global ecosystem that included animal-like organisms: wormlike critters (both terrestrial and aquatic) and torpedo-shaped (among fast-moving larger aquatic critters). I expect that simply because both shapes appear to have evolved independently multiple times on Earth. I'd also expect to find fins, legs and wings of some description.

Beyond that, is speculation! :D Fun speculation.

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You would certainly need to have a world with not only life, but sedimentary rocks.

What type of rock is mars mostly made of?


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There are most of the same geological features on Mars that you see on Earth. It has sedimentary layers that were created by both water and wind blown particles. Look here under the heading "Sedimentology".


Mars is the most likely place to find some fossils, in my opinion. They might only be microbes, if they exist at all. It is speculated that the early conditions of Mars were more hospitable to life than was earth at the same time. Earth was still partially molten and too hot in the early times of the solar system, where Mars was most likely cooler and have water.

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You ask a more interesting question than I thought at first. For fossils to be preserved you need conditions for deposition and sedimentary rock formation, and subsequently conditions for those rocks to be exposed to erosion to reveal the fossils. If I think about factors related to that on Earth, I think of plate tectonics, which is the direct cause of mountain building and most crustal sinking (resulting in flooding and deposition of marine strata in continental interiors) and uplift. Alternative causes, such as isostasy (e.g. the crust sinking under the weight of glaciers, and rebounding when glaciers melt) can cause changes of one or two hundred meters, far short of the changes caused by plate tectonics.

That raises the question, what would a world without plate tectonics look like? Without plate collisions and mountain building, volcanism would be the only mechanism for making mountains, and that would probably be rare (no "ring of fire" for example). Erosion would result in a uniformly flat topography, with shallow oceans and flat continents, or maybe no continents at all. I imagine life could evolve on such a planet, but erosion and deposition would be so slow that conditions to create and expose fossils would be very rare.

It's also interesting to speculate on what would happen to evolution in the absence of plate tectonics. Environments would be stable for a long time. Any land masses (if any still poked above the water) would be permanently isolated from one another, so "animals" and "plants" would have to get from one to the other by swimming or by being blown across oceans by storms. In contrast, on Earth evolution has sometimes been accelerated by competition when land masses collide and their fauna and flora can cross from one land mass to the other. Erosion and vulcanism are also critical forces in moving nutrients around, so a world without plate tectonics might be nutrient poor, with fairly sterile oceans.


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Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: It depends on a lot.

For those following the Curiosity Rover mission on Mars, they are getting close to rocks that have as good a chance as any in containing fossils if life ever was on the planet.

Context is critical.

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I'd also like to mention that buying fossils from Mars is prohibitively expensive at this time. The shipping charges are just outrageous.

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And they'll probably end up being composites of several fossils glued together anyway....those Martians will do anything for a buck.

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.–Carl Sagan

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