Microbial colonization in impact-generated hydrothermal sulphate deposits, Haughton impact structure, and implications for sulphates on Mars

J. Parnell, P. Lee, C. S. Cockell, G. R. Osinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Hydrothermal gypsum deposits in the Haughton impact structure, Devon Island, Canada, contain microbial communities in an endolithic habitat within individual gypsum crystals. Cyanobacterial colonies occur as masses along cleavage planes, up to 5 cm from crystal margins. The crystals are transparent, so allow transmission of light for photosynthesis, while affording protection from dehydration and wind. The colonies appear to have modified their mineral host to provide additional space as they expanded. The colonies are black due to UV-screening pigments. The relative ease with which microbial colonization may be detected and identified in impact-generated sulphate deposits at Haughton suggests that analogous settings on other planets might merit future searches for biosignatures. The proven occurrence of sulphates on the Martian surface suggests that sulphate minerals should be a priority target in the search for life on Mars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-256
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Astrobiology
Volume3
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004

Keywords

  • cyanobacteria
  • endoliths
  • gypsum
  • Haughton impact structure
  • impact craters
  • life on Mars
  • sulphates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

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