Entomologist William Romoser, an Ohio University professor emeritus, presented a research poster claiming to find evidence of life on Mars at an Entomological Society of America conference in St. Louis this week.
Ohio University issued a press release on Romoser's research on Tuesday titled Ohio entomologist: Photos show evidence of life on Mars.
Poster presentations tend to be less formal than peer-reviewed papers published in science journals. Romoser's poster makes some bold claims -- the heart of which is that there is current life on Mars. The entomologist describes "insect-like" and "reptile-like" forms and says it appears Mars "enjoys a surprising abundance of higher life forms."
As evidence, Romoser presents a series of annotated images captured by NASA's Mars rovers. Romoser suggests these show fossilized and extant forms of life, including a reptilian creature preying on an insect-like creature. The images are blurry but seem to show some of the many rocks that litter the Martian landscape.
Pareidolia, the human tendency to "see" recognizable shapes in random patterns, may be the mostly likely explanation here. It's a common phenomenon for some alien enthusiasts who enjoy looking through NASA Mars images for familiar-seeming objects. I've done it myself and found all sorts of "alien faces" in rock formations.
Mars pareidolia can be a fun pastime, but the Ohio University press release lends a sense of legitimacy to Romoser's claims. This isn't Romoser's first foray into fringe concepts related to Mars. He also issued two reports claiming to find evidence of "unidentified aerial phenomena on Mars." He suggested this may mean the presence of intelligent life forms on the barren planet.
NASA's Mars rovers have a long history of exploration, but they have found no evidence of current life. The jury is still out on the possibility of past microbial life. The Mars 2020 rover, set to launch next year, will continue to look into this lingering question.
One thing we know for sure is that NASA hasn't spotted any insects or reptiles on Mars. I have reached out to NASA, Ohio University and outside entomologists for comment.