MONO LAKE, CALIFORNIA – Friday December 3 2010. A potato-shaped microbe found in California’s Mono Lake lifts alien life hopes. Scientists hoping to find life beyond Earth are excited by the discovery in the US of a weird microbe that uses toxic arsenic instead of phosphorous in its DNA and other biological molecules. The bacterial strain known as GFAJ-1 is terrestrial in origin it originated in the intensely salty, arsenic-rich mud of California s Mono Lake. That something can live in such a poisonous place offers hope of finding life on planets that are unlike our own, the scientists said during a media briefing.

One of the most photographed inland lakes in the world, Mono Lake in California has lost a lot of its water since 1951. Now however because of special efforts to save it, the lake is rising again. The lake, on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada, is thought to be one of the oldest in North America. The lake has many oddities, it is 3 times saltier than the Pacific Ocean and has no fish living in it. However it does teem with about 4 trillion brine shrimp, 1/2 inch long.