Curiosity images small tubelike rock features on Vera Rubin Ridge

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tubes on Mars

During Curiosity’s extended science observations in the past month on Vera Rubin Ridge the rover has found a number of rocks with strange tubelike features that remind some scientists of fossils. The image on the right, taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and cropped and reduced to post here, shows some of these weird tubes.

The origin of these odd features — geological or biological processes — is in TBD limbo at the moment. Regarding trace fossils on Mars, “we don’t rule it out,” Vasavada said, “but we certainly won’t jump to that as our first interpretation.”

Close-up looks at these features show them to be angular in multiple dimensions. That could mean that they are related to crystals in the rock, perhaps “crystal molds” that are also found here on Earth, Vasavada added. Crystals in rock that are dissolved away leave crystal molds, he said.

Still, that’s just one of a few possibilities, Vasavada explained. “If we see more of them … then we begin to say that this is an important process that’s going on at Vera Rubin Ridge,” he said.

The article outlines a number of other possible explanations, including fossil remains. None are convincing at this time, based on the limited data. Nor does Curiosity have the equipment to clarify things much.



  • pzatchok

    It looks like ancient Ayrimaic(sp?).

    Probably says something like ‘Rover parking to the left’.

    It does look like a pile of crystals. With no visual reference size is decieving.

  • pzatchok: The article gives the sizes, estimated to be only a millimeter or two in width with the longest no more than 5 millimeters long. These are tiny.

    I should also note that I have seen similar rock features in caves that were not fossils at all.

  • wayne

    That scale-factor, makes all the difference!

    pivoting, just cuz’ it’s Mars:

    Bob Clampett
    John Carter of Mars animation test

  • wodun

    There is a lot of stuff going on in that picture. On the right side, it looks like something has eroded under the rock and there are also some divots. It looks like one of the tube things is broke, so hopefully they were able to move the camera to get a side shot of it. A lot of the rocks look like river rock. There is also a strange looking rock on the bottom of the picture. If I saw a rock like that here, I would take it home.

  • mpthompson

    Very interesting. Reminiscent of fossilized worm tubes?

  • Localfluff

    It would be more convincing if the fossils weren’t “worm shaped”. Many inanimate things that move, however slowly, could create worm shaped tracks. At almost any scale, like a rolling snowball does down a hill, or how rain or melting frost does it on a window.

    A fossil that looks to have five legs would look like Martian life to me. (That could revolutionize chess theory, since it must have another move order in order to not walk over).

  • Lee S

    I’m kinda late with this comment, but a thought occurred to me today…,
    The main bone of contention ( IIRC!) with the alleged fossil bacteria in the Martian meteorite a decade or so ago was they were a lot smaller than terrestrial equivalents…
    Is it not possible that life evolved on Mars on a physically smaller scale than on earth?

    I’m not well enough educated in biology to know if this is even possible, but perhaps we should be looking for traces of life an fossils of ex-life on the red Planet in the microscope rather than the macroscopic?

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