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Introduction | Forams on Mars?
Introduction: What are Forams?
Foraminifera, or for short: forams, are tiny creatures living in the ocean waters. Some are so small, you'll need a microscope to see them in all their beauty. Others grow to be big enough that you can see their presence without special aid. Sometimes they get washed up on the beach, or they leave traces of their past existence.
Some foraminifera grow a sort of shell, or their sticky substance gets glued on to tiny rocks and other small objects, such as fish poop, yes, forming a shell around them. Imagine a snail without its hard shell, all naked and slimey and sticky like wet glue, essentially a slug, ... then imagine the snail rolling itself in a puddle of mud, and then letting the mud dry up. Imagine doing this a few times, and keep adding layers of mud, and tiny rocks, and soon you'll have a shell around the original naked snail, a shell that looks like a mix of gravel and mud, mortar and 'bricks' or tiny rocks. And in some parts of the world, the beaches are littered with large amounts of their tiny shells.
Not all forams grow a shell around them. And not all are equipped with the same types of long 'feelers' or digestive extensions. There is a vast variety of forams, many types, they come in many different shapes and sizes. You could mistake one for a snail, or a miniature hermite crab just by its looks perhaps... or you'd think you're looking at a jelly fish, a sea cucumber, a snake or an eel, and possibly many other bigger, better known creatures.Take a sea star and make it very very tiny. Does it remind you of some of the forams?
Forams are single-cell organisms. Yes, one single cell that grows in a variety of shapes, some with long protrusion or arm-like 'extremities', made to catch or latch on to food, to absorb and digest, for example, resulting for some of them in immensely delicate and structured shapes around the main part of their cell's body, it's a work of art, mother nature in visual poetry! Some have grown into a sort of a net, with a purpose that is somewhat similar to a spider web or fisherman's net: to catch food, edible things flowing in the ocean.
We find foraminifera fascinating. They inspire. They remind us of other creatures, animals of very different sizes. The experience is similar to looking at the sky, at the clouds, and recognizing shapes of bunnies, cats and birds.... Take a few minutes to explore them. Visit your nearest Aquarium and ask if they have Foraminiferas on display. Surf the web for beautiful pictures of them. Read the Wikipedia information on Foraminifera.
You'll be stunned to see what's swimming around you when you go scuba-diving, snorkeling, or just strolling knee-deep in the ocean, at the beach. And next time you are at the beach and go for a swim, surfing some big waves until it comes crashing down on you, try not to swallow too much of that ocean water.... you wouldn't want to turn your belly into an aquarium for Forams.
Some resources among thousands more:
Research: The Ocean Flux Program at the MBL - Marine Biology Lab
Forams .... on Mars?Ok, so we are intrigued by their beauty, their diversity. Now we let our imagination run wild. What if?.....
What if some of them looked like this? Or like that? What if they had 24 legs, not just 2 or 5. What if the communicated with eachother, if they had a way to organize a coordinated attack, or a rescue mission? What if they were everywhere?
What if the existed on planet Mars, long ago. Perhaps even before they came to Earth?
Illustrator Attila Kohl is creating illustrations of what we imagine some foraminifera organism might have looked like, if they ever existed on Mars. Long ago, there was plenty of liquid water on Mars. There are still some glaciers up there now, covered by rusty red sand, dust and rocks. We still see water flowing in liquid state on rare occasion, during a short warmup in Martian summer, on certain flanks of craters, exposing frozen water, ice, melting it, blending it with the very salty brine that keeps it liquid, prevents it from evaporating into the very thin Martian atmosphere.
Let your imagination run wild, let Dogwaffle help you imagine and visualize a past with Life on Mars.... or perhaps it is a look into the future? What do you think, was there ever some form of life on Mars, million or billions of years ago? Is there still some life organism there, and do they look like single-cell Foraminifera? What would they look like in the past, present or future?
Don't be afraid of forams. If you have played with silly putty or experimented with baking soda and live cultures in certain yogurts or to raise dough and bake bread, you may have seen and touched worse. But yes, in all those cases, it's a good idea not to put it in your mouth and to wash your hands if you come in contact.
Long long ago, when the Sun was younger, and water was abundant on Mars...