Ohio University Emeritus Professor William Romoser has analyzed photos from NASA’s various Mars rovers, mostly from the rover Curiosity, and found insect/arthropod- and reptile-like organisms (both as fossils and living creatures) in the images.
“There has been and still is life on Mars,” said Professor Romoser, who was an entomology professor at Ohio University for 45 years and co-founded its Tropical Disease Institute, also spent nearly 20 years as a visiting vector-borne disease researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
“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.”
“While the Martian rovers, particularly Curiosity, have been looking for indicators of organic activity, there are a number of photos which clearly depict the insect- and reptile-like forms.”
“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 said.
Professor Romoser said he used several criteria in the study: 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.
“An exoskeleton and jointed appendages are sufficient to establish identification as an arthropod,” he explained.
“Three body regions, a single pair of antennae, and six legs are traditionally sufficient to establish identification as insect on Earth. These characteristics should likewise be valid to identify an organism on Mars as insect-like.”
“On these bases arthropodan insect-like forms can be seen in the Mars rover photos.”
“Many insect-like creatures and putative diversity were observed. The most common insect-like forms are robust and loosely resemble bumble bees or carpenter bees on Earth. For convenience, I’ll refer to these creatures as ‘bees’ from this point on.”
“The ‘bees’ appear to vary in size and type. Several characteristic insect/arthropod anatomical features were identifiable, not all on the same individual, but as a mosaic among individuals.”
“Distinct flight behavior was evident in many images. In one case observed, the flight maneuver was impressive with the individual ‘bee’ plunging straight down the side of a cliff and leveling off just before hitting the ground.”
“The insect-like fauna observed appeared to be sheltering/nesting in caves, in burrows beneath the surface, and in specialized structures.”
“Possible predation of the insect-like types by reptile-like creatures and putative insect-like (‘bee’) and reptile-like fossils were seen,” he said.
According to the researcher, interpretations of insect- and reptile-like creatures he described may change in the future as knowledge of life on Mars evolves, but that the sheer volume of evidence is compelling.
“Given evidence for the presence of insect/arthropod and reptile-like organisms beyond the confines of Earth, perhaps ‘astroentomology’ and ‘astroherpetology’ will emerge as important topics within the field of astrobiology,” Professor Romoser concluded.
He presented the findings November 19, 2019 at the National Meeting of the Entomological Society of America in St. Louis, Missouri.
William Romoser. Does Insect/Arthropod Biodiversity Extend Beyond Earth? Entomological Society of America 2019; doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.12363.95520