International Journal of Astrobiology

Research Article

Bacteria in amber coal and clay in relation to lithopanspermia

Milton Wainwrighta1, Amar Laswda1 and Fawaz Alshammaria1

a1 Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK


A study was undertaken to determine if amber, coal and clay samples contain bacteria, in relation to the possibility that rocks ejected from Earth might contain microorganisms capable of colonizing other planets. A technique for isolating bacteria from rocks was developed which excluded the possibility that any of the rock isolates resulted from contamination. Two species of Bacillus were found in the amber sample, and a species of the same genus was found in coal; bacilli were also commonly found in clay. It is concluded that species of the spore-forming genus Bacillus could therefore be ejected from Earth in these geological substrates and possibly be transferred elsewhere.

(Received January 13 2009)

(Accepted May 04 2009)

(Online publication June 12 2009)