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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1978 January; 35(1): 1–5.
PMCID: PMC242768

Upper boundary of the biosphere.


By using meterological rockets fitted with specially designed analyzers, samples for microbiological investigation have been taken. The analyzer design prevented extraneous microorganisms from penetrating into the analyzer. Before being used, the analyzers were sterilized with high gamma-ray doses. For the first time microorganisms have been detected in the mesosphere at an altitude of 48 to 77 km. The microorganisms are microscopic fungi having black conidia or spores (Circinella muscae, Aspergillus niger, Papulaspora anomala) and one species forming green conidia (Penicillium notatum). Colonies of Mycobacterium luteum and Micrococcus albus have also grown. Five of the six species have synthesized pigments. The presence of pigmented microbial forms leads us to believe that natural selection is occurring in the mesosphere because cells possessing chromogenous pigments (carotenoids, melanins) are more resistant to ultraviolet-ray action. A greater number of microorganisms have been registered in the mesosphere during dust storms than in the absence of strong winds.

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  • Silverman MP, Munoz EF, Oyama VI. Effect of Apollo 11 lunar samples on terrestrial microorganisms. Nature. 1971 Mar 19;230(5290):169–170. [PubMed]

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