Hoaxes & Rumors

The Mars Rat and Lizard Photos

The Mars Rat and Lizard Photos

Today we look at images which allegedly show a rat (or squirrel) and a lizard photographed on the surface of Mars.

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Let’s take a look at each of these images. First off is the Mars rat…

Mars Rat

The photo was snapped on September 28, 2012 and the full image can be found on NASA’s website here, and the official description of the photo reads:

‘Rocknest’ From Sol 52 Location
This patch of windblown sand and dust downhill from a cluster of dark rocks is the “Rocknest” site, which has been selected as the likely location for first use of the scoop on the arm of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity. This view is a mosaic of images taken by the telephoto right-eye camera of the Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the 52nd Martian day, or sol, of the mission (Sept. 28, 2012), four sols before the rover arrived at Rocknest. The Rocknest patch is about 8 feet by 16 feet (1.5 meters by 5 meters).

Scientists white-balanced the color in this view to show the Martian scene as it would appear under the lighting conditions we have on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain.

Mars Rat

The photo above is an extreme magnification of the image posted on NASA’s website. The “rat” in the image above appears to be poking out between two rocks. Below is the full image from which the above “rat” photo was taken:


Mars Lizard

Similar to the “Mars Rat” above is the “Mars Lizard” which was also circulated earlier this week. A lizard-looking formation in a photo of rocks was spotted by a blogger and the photo went viral. Below is the full image and the “lizard” closeup:

Mars Lizard mars-lizard-full

This photo was taken by the Mars rover Curiosity in March 2013.

Although conspiracy theorists may claim that these creatures were secretly placed there for testing purposes by the Mars rovers, or that these Mars images were actually taken in a desert here on earth, a more likely explanation is that these are simply examples of pareidolia.


The most likely (and widely accepted) explanation for these strange images on Mars is the concept of pareidolia, the interpretation of something vague as being significant. It’s akin to seeing images in cloud formations, the “man on the moon,” or a pyramid on Mars.

Several of us here looked for other “creatures” in other NASA images, and we were able to pick out all sorts of familiar formations such as an alligator and a penguin. It isn’t even clear if these alleged “creatures” are to proper scale.

Bottom Line

With no evidence yet that even microbes have survived on Mars, it’s unlikely to find earthly creatures such as rats and lizards roaming the surface, especially with sub-freezing temperatures, high radiation, and high carbon dioxide atmosphere.

In short, they’re rocks.

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  • Keith

    Why does everyone assume they are alive. They looked more like fossilized creatures. If life existed many years ago perhaps theses are remnants.

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