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Antarctica's Blood Falls mystery solved

Beneath the dry valleys in Antarctica region, there are several brine-saturated sediments and interconnected lakes that could sustain life, and if so, increase the likelihood of there being some types of lifeforms on Mars, according to the researchers.

Antarctica is known for the weird Blood Falls, an outflow of an iron oxide-tainted plume of saltwater. Previously, scientists thought that red algae gave this gory ooze its dramatic color, but later it was proven to be due only to iron oxides.

The brines might play a major role in modern biological processes in the Dry Valleys, named so because of their very low humidity and lack of ice cover or snow, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The new data may shed light on whether similar conditions exist elsewhere in the solar system. The Dry valleys ecosystem, which is home only to microscopic plant and animal life - closely resembles, during the Antarctic summer, conditions on the surface of the Red Planet.

The researchers found evidence that brines flow towards the Antarctic coast from 18 kilometers inland, finally discharging into Southern Ocean, a biologically rich body of water that encircles Antarctica.

It is possible that nutrients from microbial weathering in those deep brines affect near-shore biological productivity in the ocean, researchers think.

The scientists managed to gather their data utilizing a helicopter-borne electromagnetic sensor, developed in Denmark, to penetrate the surface of large areas of terrain.

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.