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Title: Evidence for biological activity in mineralization of secondary sulphate deposits in a basaltic environment: implications for the search for life in the Martian subsurface

Evidence of microbial activity associated with mineralization of secondary Na-sulphate minerals (thenardite, mirabilite) in the basaltic subsurface of Craters of the Moon National Monument (COM), Idaho were examined by scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, laser desorption Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (LD-FTICR-MS), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Peaks suggestive of bio/organic compounds were observed in the secondary Na-sulphate deposits by LD-FTICR-MS. FTIR provided additional evidence for the presence of bio/organic compounds. Sulphur fractionation was explored to assist in determining if microbes may play a role in oxidizing sulphur. The presence of bio/organic compounds associated with Na-sulphate deposits, along with the necessity of oxidizing reduced sulphur to sulphate, suggests that biological activity may be involved in the formation of these secondary minerals. The secondary Na-sulphate minerals probably form from the overlying basalt through leached sodium ions and sulphate ions produced by bio-oxidation of Fe-sulphide minerals. Since the COM basalts are one of the most comparable terrestrial analogues for their Martian counterparts, the occurrence of biological activity in the formation of sulphate minerals at COM has direct implications for the search for life on Mars. In addition, the presence of caves on Mars suggests themore » importance of these environments as possible locations for growth and preservation of microbial activity. Therefore, understanding the physiochemical pathways of abiotic and biotic mineralization in the COM subsurface and similar basaltic settings has direct implications for the search for extinct or extant life on Mars.« less
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Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 1473--5504
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: International Journal of Astrobiology; Journal Volume: 12; Journal Issue: 4
Research Org:
Idaho National Laboratory (INL)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
99 GENERAL AND MISCELLANEOUS bio/organic compounds; Craters of the Moon National Monument; FTICR-MS; FTIR; Mars; SEM; sulphur isotopes; Thenardite; XRD