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Scientists claim to detect insects on Mars, but I think they are just rocks


Entomologist William Romoser has annotated this NASA Mars rover image to indicate that it has an insect-like shape.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / Notes by William Romoser

There are no robot legs on Mars . Or femur . Or reptiles that run around and eat Mars insects. Sure, with methane and possibly also with oxygen there's something weird going on – but I'm confident that not much happens in life on Mars. Of course, not everyone agrees.

Ohio University emeritus entomologist William Romoser presented a research poster this week at a conference of the Entomological Society of America, St. Louis, claiming to find evidence of life on Mars.

Entomologist William Romoser suggests that this NASA rover image of Mars shows a "snake-like predator" with "insect-like prey" in the middle.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

Ohio University published a press release on Romoser's research results titled "Ohio Entomologist" on Tuesday: photos show evidence of life on Mars. Romoser's poster makes some bold claims – the heart of which is that there is actual life on Mars. The entomologist describes "insect-like" and "reptile-like" forms and says that Mars "has a surprising abundance of higher life forms".

As evidence, Romoser presents a series of annotated images taken by NASA's Mars rovers. Romoser suggests that these show fossilized and extant life forms, including a reptile creature that chases an insect-like creature. The images are blurry but seem to show some of the many rocks that cover the Martian landscape.

Pareidolia, the human tendency to "see" recognizable shapes in random patterns, could be the most likely explanation here. It is a common phenomenon for some alien enthusiasts who enjoy looking for familiar objects through NASA's Mars images. I did it myself and found all sorts of "strange faces" in rock formations .

Mars pareidism may be a fun pastime, but the Ohio University press release gives Romoser's claims a sense of legitimacy. This is not Romoser's first excursion into marginal concepts related to Mars. He also issued two reports claiming to find evidence of "unidentified aerial phenomena on Mars". He suggested that this could mean the presence of intelligent life forms on the bald planet.

NASA's Mars rovers have a long history of research, but they have found no evidence of present-day life. The jury is not yet sure if microbial life was possible in the past. The Mars 2020 Rover is due to hit the market next year will continue to address this issue.

We know with certainty that NASA has not discovered insects or reptiles on Mars. I have asked NASA, Ohio University and external entomologists for a comment.

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