This study investigates the geomicrobiological potential of Upper Pleistocene evaporite deposits of the Chott el Gharsa, a wide continental sabkha in southern Tunisia. Organic and inorganic-derived biosignatures are mostly contained in microcrystalline, laminated gypsum lithofacies consisting of light/dark alternations of concordant laminae, which have precipitated from high salt concentrated waters. These biosignatures include mineralized microbial-interpreted morphologies, such as mucilage, rods, and microfibers, and dumbbell morphologies in the hollow cores of dolomite crystals that are associated with sulfates. Mineral products that are induced by microbial activity and their organic compounds lead to the formation of lenticular-shaped gypsum crystals, with a high length/width ratio, dolomite precipitation and formation of pyrite framboids. Morphological and structural aspects of these biosignatures, and their composition, in laminated, dolomite-rich sulfate deposits could be detected through microscopic investigations and micro-analyses performed by the instrumentation that is planned for ongoing Mars sample return missions.

Microbial signatures in sabkha evaporite deposits of Chott el Gharsa (Tunisia) and their astrobiological implications

MARINANGELI, Lucia;ORI, Gian Gabriele
2006-01-01

Abstract

This study investigates the geomicrobiological potential of Upper Pleistocene evaporite deposits of the Chott el Gharsa, a wide continental sabkha in southern Tunisia. Organic and inorganic-derived biosignatures are mostly contained in microcrystalline, laminated gypsum lithofacies consisting of light/dark alternations of concordant laminae, which have precipitated from high salt concentrated waters. These biosignatures include mineralized microbial-interpreted morphologies, such as mucilage, rods, and microfibers, and dumbbell morphologies in the hollow cores of dolomite crystals that are associated with sulfates. Mineral products that are induced by microbial activity and their organic compounds lead to the formation of lenticular-shaped gypsum crystals, with a high length/width ratio, dolomite precipitation and formation of pyrite framboids. Morphological and structural aspects of these biosignatures, and their composition, in laminated, dolomite-rich sulfate deposits could be detected through microscopic investigations and micro-analyses performed by the instrumentation that is planned for ongoing Mars sample return missions.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11564/133947
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