Scottish and Canadian scientists found various levels of methane in each of the eight samples of Martian volcanic rock they examined, phys.org reported. Basic forms of life beneath Mars' surface could use the gas as a food source, much like microbes do on Earth.
Other researchers will be eager to replicate the findings using different measurement tools and techniques, according to co-author Sean McMahon, a Yale University postdoctoral associate.
"Our findings will likely be used by astrobiologists in models and experiments aimed at understanding whether life could survive below the surface of Mars today," McMahon was quoted as saying by phys.org
The discovery was made by researchers from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, the University of Glasgow, Brock University in Ontario, and the University of Western Ontario.
"One of the most exciting developments in the exploration of Mars has been the suggestion of methane in the Martian atmosphere," University of Aberdeen professor John Parnell, who directed the research, told physics.org.
"Recent and forthcoming missions by NASA and the European Space Agency, respectively, are looking at this, however, it is so far unclear where the methane comes from, and even whether it is really there. However, our research provides a strong indication that rocks on Mars contain a large reservoir of methane."
The team said it plans on building on its research by analyzing additional meteorites, and noted that its work may prove helpful in future Mars rover experiments.
"Even if Martian methane does not directly feed microbes, it may signal the presence of a warm, wet, chemically reactive environment where life could thrive," Yale's McMahon told phys.org.