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Humans can’t survive on Mars but that doesn’t mean mice can’t, Cosmos magazine reported.
A research team found recently that leaf-eared mice have no issues surviving at the summits of Andean volcanoes more than 20,000 feet in altitude.
These areas are considered “Mars-like” environments and rank among the most inhospitable on the planet, researchers wrote in a new study. They are known for being arid, cold and oxygen-poor.
“Even at the base of the volcanoes, the mice are living in an extreme, Martian environment,” said lead author Jay Storz.
Storz and his colleagues discovered mouse burrows and collected 13 mummified leaf-eared mice from three volcanoes: Salín, Púlar and Copiapó. They also caught a live rodent that made its home on the peak of the extinct Llullaillaco volcano located between Chile and Argentina at an altitude of more than 22,000 feet.
The team then conducted a genetic study to determine whether mummified mice originated from a population distinct from the live specimen. Their analysis showed they were “all one big happy family,” according to Storz.
The researchers explained that their findings suggest that the mice can survive the harsh, high-altitude regions without any issues. The study also challenges previous assertions that the rodents had hitched a ride with the ancient Incas that lived in those regions.
“It just boggles the mind that any kind of animal, let alone a warm-blooded mammal, could be surviving and functioning in that environment,” said Storz.