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[翻译]AS IT IS - Scientists Discover 50,000-Year-Old 'Super Life' in Mexico

来源:慢速英语   时间:2017-02-26 08:19:00

Scientists have found living organisms trapped in crystals that could be 50,000 years old.

科学家在晶体中发现了可能封存5万年之久的存活微生物。

The organisms were found in a hot, but beautiful cave system in Naica, Mexico. These ancient life forms can be seen only with a microscope. They are dormant, with all biological activity suspended inside the solid crystals.

这些微生物是在墨西哥奈卡一处炎热但又美丽的洞穴系统中发现的。这些古老的生命形式只能通过显微镜看到。它们处于休眠状态,所有的生物活性在这种固态晶体内暂时停止。

Penelope Boston leads the Astrobiology Institute at NASA, the space agency of the United States. She says the ancient microbes were able to exist by eating minerals such as iron and manganese.

潘尼洛普·波士顿(Penelope Boston)领导着美国宇航局的天体生物研究所。她说,这种古老的微生物通过吃铁和猛之类的矿物质存活。

She spoke about the discovery recently at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. If the findings are confirmed, they will show how microbes can survive in extreme conditions.

她最近在美国科学促进会的一次会议上谈到了这一发现。如果该结果得到证实,它们将展示出微生物如何在极端条件下生存。

Researchers have been studying the microbes for nine years. But they have not reported their discovery in a scientific publication, and other scientists have yet to confirm the findings.

研究人员已经对这种微生物进行了9年研究。但是他们并未在科学出版物上报道他们的发现,同时其他科学家尚未证实这些发现。

Penelope Boston plans to do more genetic tests on the microbes, which she revived both in the laboratory and in the Mexican caves.

波士顿计划对她在实验室和墨西哥洞穴中复活的这种微生物进行更多的基因检测。

40 strains of microbes, viruses

40种微生物、病毒

Forty different kinds of microbes and some viruses were found in the underground area. The genetic structures of these organisms are 10 percent different from those of their nearest relatives. Boston says that means their closest relative is about as genetically different as humans are from mushrooms growing in the forest.

在这片地下区域发现了40种不同种类的微生物和一些病毒。这些微生物的遗传结构同它们最近亲物种的遗传结构有10%的差异。波士顿表示,这意味着它们最近亲物种的遗传差异都像人类和森林中生长的蘑菇一样相去甚远。

The caves in Naica are 800 kilometers deep. They were once used for mining lead and zinc. Before the miners began working in the caves, the area was isolated from the surface and the outside world.

奈卡的这些洞穴深达800公里。它们曾经被用于开采铅和锌。在矿工开始开采这些洞穴之前,该地区与地表以及外部世界相隔离。

Some of the caves are as big as the large religious centers built during Europe’s Middle Ages. There are crystals covering the walls. The caves are so hot that scientists must wear special clothing to keep cool. The clothing keeps the crystals safe from human germs or other damage.

一些洞穴跟欧洲中世纪建造的大型宗教中心一样庞大,洞穴壁上覆盖着晶体。这些洞穴是如此之热,科学家们必须穿上特制衣服以保持凉爽。这些衣服可以防止晶体受到人类细菌等的损害。

Boston said the researchers could only work for about 20 minutes at a time before they had to go to a room that was 38 degrees Celsius to cool down.

波士顿表示,研究人员每次只能工作20分钟左右,然后不得不去一处38摄氏度的房间降温。

No surprise in extreme life

对极端生命毫不意外

NASA officials would not let Boston share her findings with scientific experts before last week’s announcement. So scientists could not say much about the findings. But Norine Noonan, a biologist with the University of South Florida, said she believed them.

美国宇航局官员在上周公告前不愿意让波士顿同科学专家分享她的研究结果。所以科学家对该研究结果说不上来什么。但是南佛罗里达大学的生物学家诺琳·诺南(Norine Noonan)称她信任他们。

“Why are we surprised?” Noonan asked. “As a biologist, I would say life on Earth is extremely tough and extremely versatile.”

诺南问道:“我们为什么要惊讶?作为生物学家来说,我认为地球上的生命是极其坚韧和多变的。”

The microbes are not the oldest life forms on Earth. Several years ago, scientists published studies about microbes that may be 500,000 years old and still alive. Boston says those microbes were trapped in ice and salt, not rock or crystal.

这些微生物并非地球上最古老的生命形式。几年前,科学家发表了一项关于微生物研究,称这种微生物可能有50万年之久并且仍然活着。波士顿表示,那些微生物被封存在冰和盐之中,而不是岩石或晶体中。

Other experts were asked to estimate the age of the Naica microbes. To do this, they looked at where the microbes were in the crystals and how fast those crystals grow.

其他专家被要求估算在奈卡发现的这种微生物的年龄。为了实现这点,他们查看了这种微生物在晶体中的位置,以及那些晶体生长有多快。

Boston is also studying microbes commonly found inside caves in other countries, such as Ukraine and the United States. These microbes eat copper sulfate and appear to be impossible to kill. Boston said they show how difficult life on Earth can be.

波士顿也还在研究乌克兰和美国等国家的洞穴中常见的微生物。这些微生物食用硫酸铜,并且似乎不可能被杀死。波士顿表示,它们表明了地球上的生命有多艰难。

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Words in This Story

crystal – n. a piece of something that is formed when the substance turns solid

cave – n. a large hole that was formed naturally in the side of a hill or under the ground

dormant – adj. asleep; alive, but having all activity suspended

revive – v. to become active again; to return to life

mushroom – n. part of a fungus that grows above ground

isolate – v. to separate or set apart from others

versatile – adj. changing quickly; having many uses