Versión en Español


Alleged Discrepancies

Article Reprints

Audio Resources

Bible Bullets

Darwin Day Debate

Decisive Designs


“In the News”

Reason & Revelation

Research Articles

Scripturally Speaking

Sensible Science


Discovery for Kids

Examine the Evidence

Home Study Courses



A.P. Information

About AP

Contact AP

Copyright Statement

Help AP

Privacy Statement

Speaking Schedules

A.P. Scientists and
Auxiliary Writers

Usage Guidelines

Apologetics Press :: Sensible Science

Life on Mars, or Miniscule Balls of Digested Matter?
by Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

Printer version | Email this article

The famous Martian meteorite, ALH84001, may finally be allowed to rest in peace. This particular rock possessed geological features that some scientists considered as fossil remains of some primitive bacteria. The structures look like a chain of miniature balls, typically 50-200 millionths of a millimeter across. Their tiny size earned them the name nanobacteria. But a recent study has determined that they may be nothing more than the product of decayed organic material.

Jürgen Schieber, of Indiana University in Bloomington, and Howard Arnott of the University of Texas at Arlington, have reported that “spherical balls of protein about 40-120 nanometers across are produced when organic material decays in an environment like that in which sedimentary rocks form” (Ball, 2003). Their paper, which appeared in the August issue of Geology, noted that they were able to produce “abundant proteinaceous spheroids in the size range of nanobacteria” (Schieber and Arnott, 2003, 31:717).

Previously, we have addressed the various assertions regarding life forms having been found in this meteorite (see: “Life on Mars—The Rest of the Story” and “Mars Rock Update”). One interesting point, discussed by science writer Philip Ball, is that since it was first claimed that these spherical balls might be nanobacteria, “some researchers have claimed to have grown nanobacteria in the laboratory.”

Scheiber and Arnott believe the balls form when enzymes snip stretched protein fibers of muscle tissue or plant cell wall, causing them to contract. They suggest that these nanoballs could become mineralized before being completely degraded, and pointed out that fossilization can begin just a few weeks after the onset of decay. Obviously, this means that the material easily could have originated once the rock was here on the Earth. The authors concluded: “Most, if not all alleged nanobacterial structures in sedimentary rocks are not evidence for minute life forms” (Ball, 2003, emp. added). Send in the Mars rover, boys; this rock is nothing more than a rock.


Ball, Philip (2003), “Nanofossils May be Digested Organic Matter,” Nature ScienceUpdate, [On-line], URL:

Schieber, Jürgen and Howard J. Arnott (2003), “Nanobacteria as a By-product of Enzyme-driven Tissue Decay,” Geology, 31[8]:717-720.

Copyright © 2003 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

We are happy to grant permission for items in the "Sensible Science" section to be reproduced in their entirety, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) the author’s name must remain attached to the materials; (4) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (5) alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, quotations, etc. must be reproduced exactly as they appear in the original); (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken.

For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:

Apologetics Press
230 Landmark Drive
Montgomery, Alabama 36117
Phone (334) 272-8558

Web site engine code is Copyright © 2003 by PHP-Nuke. All Rights Reserved. PHP-Nuke is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL license.
Page Generation: 0.096 Seconds