In upcoming years several space missions will investigate the habitability of Mars and the possibility of extinct or extant life on the planet. In previous laboratory works we have investigated the infrared spectral modifications induced by thermal processing on different carbonate samples, in the form of recent shells and fossils of different ages, whose biogenic origin is indisputable. The goal was to develop a method able to discriminate biogenic carbonate samples from their abiogenic counterparts. The method has been successfully applied to microbialites, i.e. bio-induced microcrystalline carbonate deposits, and particularly to stromatolites, the laminated fabric of microbialites, some of which can be ascribed among the oldest traces of biological activity known on Earth. In this work we show that, by applying our method to different parts of the same carbonate rock, we are able to discriminate the presence, nature and biogenicity of various micrite types (i.e. detrital vs autochthonous) and to distinguish them from the skeletal grains. To test our methodology we preliminarily used the epifluorescence technique to select on polished samples, skeletal grains, autochthonous and allochthonous micrites, each one characterized by different organic matter content. The results on the various components show that, applying the infrared spectral modifications induced by thermal processing, it is possible to determine the degree of biogenicity of the different carbonate samples. The results are of valuable importance since such carbonates are linked to primitive living organisms that can be considered as good analogues for putative Martian life forms.

Microbialites vs detrital micrites: degree of biogenicity, parameter suitable for Mars analogues

MASTANDREA, Adelaide;Guido A.;
2014

Abstract

In upcoming years several space missions will investigate the habitability of Mars and the possibility of extinct or extant life on the planet. In previous laboratory works we have investigated the infrared spectral modifications induced by thermal processing on different carbonate samples, in the form of recent shells and fossils of different ages, whose biogenic origin is indisputable. The goal was to develop a method able to discriminate biogenic carbonate samples from their abiogenic counterparts. The method has been successfully applied to microbialites, i.e. bio-induced microcrystalline carbonate deposits, and particularly to stromatolites, the laminated fabric of microbialites, some of which can be ascribed among the oldest traces of biological activity known on Earth. In this work we show that, by applying our method to different parts of the same carbonate rock, we are able to discriminate the presence, nature and biogenicity of various micrite types (i.e. detrital vs autochthonous) and to distinguish them from the skeletal grains. To test our methodology we preliminarily used the epifluorescence technique to select on polished samples, skeletal grains, autochthonous and allochthonous micrites, each one characterized by different organic matter content. The results on the various components show that, applying the infrared spectral modifications induced by thermal processing, it is possible to determine the degree of biogenicity of the different carbonate samples. The results are of valuable importance since such carbonates are linked to primitive living organisms that can be considered as good analogues for putative Martian life forms.
Mars; spectroscopy; carbonates
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11770/148990
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