This Morning Glory Flower Could Be the Key to Life Beyond Earth

May 15, 2017 09:56 AM EDT

Life beyond Earth could be out there, but humans haven't found evidence of it yet. One possibility instead is bringing life outside of the planet ourselves. A new study shows that the best bet might be morning glory flowers.

According to a report from Gizmodo, biologists David Tepfer and Sydney Leach found that morning glory embryos can survive very high amounts of ultraviolet radiation, up to six million times the amount used to sterilize drinking water. Because space is rife with radiation that's damaging to most living things on Earth, it's important to find the right organism that can potentially be ferried throughout space in asteroids, meteors, planets or spacecraft. This process is called panspermia.

"We cannot say that we have evidence for the panspermia hypothesis, but we can say that showing the resistance of plant seeds to conditions in space makes the hypothesis more plausible," Tepfer told Gizmodo.

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Interstellar tests on microorganisms, seeds and insect larvae have been conducted since the early 2000s, but it's only in 2009 that the scientists blasted seeds with maximum amounts of UV light and discovered that morning glory seeds can withstand it. While the tobacco and Arabidopsis thaliana seeds were killed off at the exposure, the morning glory seeds were able to survive to germinate and produce plants.

"Imagine dormant seeds being sent to exoplanets to release microbial life or the building blocks of life, even if the seeds themselves might not germinate and form plants," Tepfer said. "We humans should stay on Earth and clean up our mess, but during the years our species is alive and technologically competent, we should embrace our role as disseminators of life - perhaps using plant seeds loaded with microorganisms."

If scientists can eventually find a way to ferry life across outer space, it might mean that life arrived on Earth from farther away than believed, Science Alert reported.

The paper about the potential of morning glory flowers surviving in spacew as published in the journal Astrobiology.

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