Recent earthquakes on Mars point at the existence of active volcanoes and liquid reservoirs that could sustain life on the Red Planet.
A recent quake with a magnitude of 7 is thought to have occurred after scientists analysed tracks made by boulders that toppled from a Martian cliff.
Lead author Gerald Roberts told space.com the dirt patterns were inconsistent with how they would scatter if they were deposited by melting ice.
Instead, the boulder falls had created patterns that resembled the deadly earthquake near L’Aquila, Italy, in 2009.
That the tracks have not yet been erased by Martian winds also indicate the movement is recent.
The activity on the Red Planet has been detected on faults in the Cerberus Fossae region, close to the Elysium Mons volcano. It follows that the quakes are likely to be driven by subterranean volcanism.
“It is this link between life, volcanism and active faulting that makes the boulder data we have collected so intriguing,” Roberts said in a press release.
The study, which will appear in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, on March 1, suggests that if active volcanoes do exist on Mars, their heat could melt subterranean ice, providing moist habitats hospitable to life.