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.
Various anatomical structures seen in different photos: (A – E) and probably (F) are ‘beelike,’ but not necessarily the same type; (A & B) a specimen whose head appears to have turned in the direction of the camera (based on the scale provided in the photo from which this was extracted, this individual is estimated to be approximately 20 inches long); (C) abdomen of specimen from (A); (D) individual on ground with head facing left with head & thorax visible; (E) individual flying with legs evident and, though in flight, somewhat comparable to the specimen in (D); compound eyes and hindlegs labeled in two positions since in motion; relative to (D & E), the locations, shapes, sizes, and appearance of the legs suggest that the forelgs, with putative distal chelate structures, are grasping; the midlegs, digging; and the hindlegs, jumping & running; (F) specimen on ground with wing(s) toward the right; longitudinal veins, cross veins, and wing cells evident; (G) part of wing of specimen apparently caught on the rover; inset: enlarged portion of wing; longitudinal veins, cross veins, and cells are evident. Image credit: William Romoser, doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.12363.95520.
“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.
Insect-like forms in flight: (A) at least two apparent insect-like creatures flying close to one another; (B) putative insect-like forms in a darkening sky; (C & D) extracts from (B) with evidence of wings beating (light spots encircling the dark bodies); (E) an insect-like specimen (‘bee’) that appears to have flown right to left from what could be a cave or an entrance to the underground; (F) two putative insect-like specimens in flight contrasted with the darkening sky; insert: enlarged view. Image credit: William Romoser, doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.12363.95520.
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.”
Insect- and reptile-like forms: (A) frontal view of a putative reptile-like fossil compared to a terran snake: (1) frontal view of putative fossil (circled) in a debris field; (2) enlarged frontal view of fossil; (3) midline symmetry indicated; (4) eyes and small oral opening circled; (5) bilateral punctate structures indicated; (6) large, full-gape, oral opening; (7) eyes, lateral punctate structures, and large mouth capable of gaping are indicated; (8) frontal view of Eastern King Snake head; (9) King snake with eyes and bilateral punctuate structures circled; (B) putative fossil insect on its dorsum with head to the top, and with selected structures labeled; (C & D) apparent predatory behavior showing reptile-like creature with insect-like creature in its mouth. Image credit: William Romoser, doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.12363.95520.
“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