Lets say humans would want to populate Mars with ants. Would it be possible for an ant colony to create a self sustaining ecosystem underground on Mars, by for example farming fungi, like some ants do? How could a project like this be implemented? And is there a conceivable reason for humans to want do so? Also which species of ant has the best chances?

  • $\begingroup$ So you not only need ants, you also need fungi. And fungi are saprophytes, they need food. What do the fungi eat? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 2, 2020 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ isn't martian soil fertile? In the movie the Martian, potatoes were farmed in it $\endgroup$ Dec 2, 2020 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ There is no soil on Mars. Soil is a product of life. No life, no soil. Without life, all you can have is regolith. (Some) plants can be grown without soil, with care and supplying their needs through artificial needs. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 2, 2020 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ In the movie, the potatoes were grown in (redydrated) dehydrated human feces, and burnt rocket fuel for water. The soil was only there as a supporting substrate. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Dec 2, 2020 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ Pick a question. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 2, 2020 at 14:18

2 Answers 2


Not on Mars as it is today.

The temperature is too low (it averages -63 C, with peaks of 20 C in summer and -140 C in winter), the atmospheric pressure is too low (6 mbar, even lower than on the top of Mount Everest) and there is not enough liquid water. No Earth life form can thrive in those conditions.

Maybe some bacteria can stay in suspended animation, but nothing more.

Moreover, Martian soil is toxic

Martian soil is toxic, due to relatively high concentrations of perchlorate compounds containing chlorine. Elemental chlorine was first discovered during localised investigations by Mars rover Sojourner, and has been confirmed by Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity. The Mars Odyssey orbiter has also detected perchlorates across the surface of the planet.

  • $\begingroup$ Not to mention that there is no food on Mars... Ants do need to eat. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 2, 2020 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ thats were fungi would come in. In The Martian, the guy also farms on martian soil $\endgroup$ Dec 2, 2020 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ @user2741831 And what does THE FUNGI eat? Yes, fungi needs food too. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Dec 2, 2020 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ geothermal energy maybe, or maybe nutrients in martian soil. But I don't know thats why I made the post $\endgroup$ Dec 2, 2020 at 12:52
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    $\begingroup$ @a_donda, being Mars the god of war, the soil of its planet can be also martial ;) Typo fixed $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Dec 2, 2020 at 14:24


Ants require air at suitable pressure and temperature containing sufficient oxygen, plus water and food to live.

On Mars, there is virtually no air pressure (usually less than 1% of Earth air). There is virtually no unbound oxygen on Mars, and while there is some water, it is always either a gas or that white crunchy stuff, neither of which help the ants much. Also, if you put ants on Mars, the only food on Mars will be... dead ants.

You need to put your aim a bit lower than ants. Some lichens can survive, but not live, on the Mars surface. In the deepest canyons on a balmy summer day they might, just might, even be able to live and grow.

Soil bacteria, of the type that use anaerobic metabolic pathways, should manage just fine below the Martian surface. Things like the sulfur-eating microbes.

They would live below the surface, protected from the surface temperature extremes, radiation and vacuum. They would derive energy from "eating" sulphur-containing minerals. Here on Earth we encounter such bacteria in geothermal vents, deep in mines, and similarly strange places.

Unfortunately no, these do not make a suitable base upon which to build a food chain. The rate of growth is very low, the bacteria and their residue and excretions is deadly poison to aerobic life, they are simply not compatible. The closest encounter you are likely to have with an anaerobic bacterium is called "Gangrene"


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