Unveiling microbial preservation under hyperacidic and oxidizing conditions in the Oligocene Rio Tinto deposit

David C. Fernández-Remolar, Daniel Carrizo, Mourad Harir, Ting Huang, Ricardo Amils, Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, Laura Sánchez-García, David Gomez-Ortiz, Per Malmberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

The preservation of biosignatures on Mars is largely associated with extensive deposits of clays formed under mild early Noachian conditions (> 3.9 Ga). They were followed by widespread precipitation of acidic sulfates considered adverse for biomolecule preservation. In this paper, an exhaustive mass spectrometry investigation of ferric subsurface materials in the Rio Tinto gossan deposit (~ 25 Ma) provides evidence of well-preserved molecular biosignatures under oxidative and acidic conditions. Time of flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF–SIMS) analysis shows a direct association between physical-templating biological structures and molecular biosignatures. This relation implies that the quality of molecular preservation is exceptional and provides information on microbial life formerly operating in the shallow regions of the Rio Tinto subsurface. Consequently, low-pH oxidative environments on Mars could also record molecular information about ancient life in the same way as the Noachian clay-rich deposits.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21543
JournalScientific Reports
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

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