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Astrobiology. 2006 Aug;6(4):527-45.

Ultrastructural study of iron oxide precipitates: implications for the search for biosignatures in the Meridiani hematite concretions, Mars.

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Centro de Astrobiología, Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial, Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid, Spain.


Two terrestrial environments that have been proposed as analogs for the iron oxide precipitation in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars include the Rio Tinto precipitates and southern Utah marble concretions. Samples of two typical Utah iron oxide concretions and iron oxide precipitates in contact with biofilms from Rio Tinto have been studied to determine whether evidence could be found for biomediation in the precipitation process and to identify likely locations for fossil microorganisms. Scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray, and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) were used to search for biosignatures in the Utah marbles. The precipitation of iron oxides resembles known biosignatures, though organic compounds could not be confirmed with GC-MS analysis. In contrast, textural variations induced by biological activity are abundant in the modern Rio Tinto samples. Although no compelling evidence of direct or indirect biomediation was found in the Utah marbles, the ultrastructure of the iron oxide cement in the concretion suggests an inward growth during concretion precipitation from an initially spherical redox front. No indication for growth from a physical nucleus was found.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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