A group of 50,000 year-old microbes found in a cave in Mexico are being used to support arguments that alien organisms could find homes in extreme environments on other planets.
The organisms, found in a cave in Naica, in Mexico, have been revived by Nasa in an attempt to demonstrate how other life forms can still flourish in hostile environments.
Encased in gypsum shafts, the microbes have lived inside the soft sulphate mineral for the last 10,000 years.
These microbes, classed as extremophiles, are said to thrive in seemingly impossible conditions, said the BBC.
Around 100 different bugs were found inside the shafts. 90% of these, which are mainly bacteria, had never been seen before.
They were brought back to life in a lab after they were examined on-site.
"Other people have made longer-term claims for the antiquity of organisms that were still alive, but in this case these organisms are all very extraordinary – they are not very closely related to anything in the known genetic databases," said Dr Penelope Boston, new director of Nasa's Astrobiology Institute, to the BBC.
The cave, nicknamed by the scientists as "Hell", boasts temperatures of 40-60C and are incredibly hot and humid.
The organisms have evolved to feed on the sulphides, iron, manganese or copper oxide in the cave.
In spite of the feverish setting, Dr Boston described the experience as "tear-inducingly beautiful".
She said: "It was a transformative experience… it really felt strange. It was a very hard environment to work in, but tear-inducingly beautiful. It's like being inside a geode. I wrote several poems about it, actually."
Gypsum, a soft sulphate mineral which is used as fertiliser, is widely used in the likes of chalkboard, whiteboard and plasterboard.
The Naica mine in the Mexican state of Chihuahua holds some of the largest ever natural crystals found.
These looming entities are more than 30ft long.