Microbes in Atacama desert’s lost lagoons may mirror early life on Mars

A patchwork of crystal-clear lagoons and vast salt plains in Argentina’s Puna de Atacama desert forms an otherworldly ecosystem unlike “anything any scientist has ever seen,” researchers say.

The never-before-seen lagoons host mounds of rock layered with microbes that, at first glance, resemble some of the first known forms of life on Earth. Researchers discovered this lost world by chance after spotting a network of strange pools on satellite images of the desert in northwestern Argentina.