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What appears to be algae, lichens and "Martian mushrooms" have all been photographed by the NASA rovers Opportunity and Curiosity.

And photos of 15 mushroom-shaped specimens purport to show them growing larger and emerging from beneath the red sands of Mars.

Dr Regina Dass, of the Department of Microbiology, School of Life Sciences, India, the study's co-author said: "There are no geological or other abiogenic forces on Earth which can produce sedimentary structures, by the hundreds, which have mushroom shapes, stems, stalks, and shed what looks like spores on the surrounding surface.

“In fact, fifteen specimens were photographed by NASA growing out of the ground in just three days.

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