NASA’s Curiosity rover is on the Mars searching for evidence of extraterrestrial life while the space agency is preparing for its Mars 2020 rover mission to the red planet. However, a scientist claims to have found the evidence of insect and reptile-like creatures on the Martian surface in the pictures sent from the red planet. But NASA and other researchers do not agree.
William Romoser, a professor emeritus at the Ohio University specialised in entomology and arbovirology, has concluded that we already have the evidence of life on Mars, courtesy of photographs from various Mars rovers. He says, “There has been and still is life on Mars.”
Romoser presented his findings on Nov 19 at the national meeting of the Entomological Society of America, but his evidence for alleged Martian life comes only from his interpretation of photographs where he claims to have spotted both fossilised and living creatures in the shapes of life-forms that look similar to reptiles and bee-like insects.
“There is apparent diversity among the Martian insect-like fauna which display many features similar to Terran insects that are interpreted as advanced groups – for example, the presence of wings, wing flexion, agile gliding/flight, and variously structured leg elements,” Romoser said in a statement.
“Numerous photos show images where arthropod body segments, along with legs, antennae and wings, can be picked out from the surrounding area, and one even appears to show one of the insects in a steep dive before pulling up just before hitting the ground,” he added.
The press note published by the Ohio University states that criteria used in Romoser’s research included– a dramatic departure from the surroundings, clarity of form, body symmetry, segmentation of body parts, repeating form, skeletal remains, and observation of forms in close proximity to one another.
Apart from this, Romoser also looked for particular postures, evidence of motion, flight, apparent interaction as suggested by relative positions, as well as shiny eyes to suggest the presence of living forms. However, as mentioned earlier, other researchers do not consider this evidence enough to prove the existence of life on Mars.
David Maddison, a professor in the integrative biology department at Oregon State University says that this “proof” is likely just an example of pareidolia, reported Space.com. The pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon in which people see patterns in random stimulus leading to incorrect perception. Seeing shapes in clouds is a classic example of pareidolia.
Maddison said that he doesn’t think there are insects on Mars and simply pointing out suggestive shapes in NASA photos may not be the best way to draw conclusions in the search for life beyond Earth.
Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, told Space.com, “I think it’s really easy to find patterns in images, especially when they’re out of context. They’re little clips of larger images and there’s no scale bar on them … you could imagine a lot of different shapes in there. That’s not a good way to do this kind of assessment.”
Space.com also reported NASA’s response to the claim of Romoser’s work and assertion. The space agency says that it is searching for the potential of “past life” on the red planet and the collective general opinion of the large majority of the scientific community is that current conditions on the surface of Mars are not suitable for liquid water or complex life.