Antarctic sandstone sample containing micro-organisms.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This sample was collected in the 1990s by Dr David Wynn-Williams of the British Antarctic Survey. The grey-green layer beneath the surface consists of micro-organisms which can survive the cold of Antarctica by living within the rock and metabolising very slowly; any one carbon atom takes thousands of years to pas through their bodies. Their viability demonstrates the resilience of living organisms which may one day be found in extra-terrestrial environments.