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Title: Production and Early Preservation of Lipid Biomarkers in Iron Hot Springs

The bicarbonate-buffered anoxic vent waters at Chocolate Pots hot springs in Yellowstone National Park are 51–54°C, pH 5.5–6.0, and are very high in dissolved Fe(II) at 5.8–5.9 mg/L. The aqueous Fe(II) is oxidized by a combination of biotic and abiotic mechanisms and precipitated as primary siliceous nanophase iron oxyhydroxides (ferrihydrite). Four distinct prokaryotic photosynthetic microbial mat types grow on top of these iron deposits. Lipids were used to characterize the community composition of the microbial mats, link source organisms to geologically significant biomarkers, and investigate how iron mineralization degrades the lipid signature of the community. The phospholipid and glycolipid fatty acid profiles of the highest-temperature mats indicate that they are dominated by cyanobacteria and green nonsulfur filamentous anoxygenic phototrophs (FAPs). Diagnostic lipid biomarkers of the cyanobacteria include midchain branched mono- and dimethylalkanes and, most notably, 2-methylbacteriohopanepolyol. Diagnostic lipid biomarkers of the FAPs (Chloroflexus and Roseiflexus spp.) include wax esters and a long-chain tri-unsaturated alkene. Surprisingly, the lipid biomarkers resisted the earliest stages of microbial degradation and diagenesis to survive in the iron oxides beneath the mats. Understanding the potential of particular sedimentary environments to capture and preserve fossil biosignatures is of vital importance in the selection of the best landingmore » sites for future astrobiological missions to Mars. Finally, this study explores the nature of organic degradation processes in moderately thermal Fe(II)-rich groundwater springs—environmental conditions that have been previously identified as highly relevant for Mars exploration.« less
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Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 1531-1074; 48058; KP1704020
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrobiology; Journal Volume: 14; Journal Issue: 6
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US), Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
Production and Early Preservation of Lipid Biomarkers in Iron Hot Springs; Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory