Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mars mineral could be linked to microbes

Date:
May 20, 2014
Source:
Australian National University
Summary:
Scientists have discovered that living organisms on Earth were capable of making a mineral that may also be found on Mars. Scientists had believed deposits of the clay-mineral stevensite could only be formed in harsh conditions like volcanic lava and hot alkali lakes. However researchers have now found living microbes create an environment that allows stevensite to form, raising new questions about the stevensite found on Mars.

The late Dr Linda Moore sampling microbialites.
Credit: Bob Burne

Scientists have discovered that the earliest living organisms on Earth were capable of making a mineral that may be found on Mars.

Related Articles


The clay-mineral stevensite has been used since ancient times and was used by Nubian women as a beauty treatment, but scientists had believed deposits could only be formed in harsh conditions like volcanic lava and hot alkali lakes.

Researchers led by Dr Bob Burne from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences have found living microbes create an environment that allows stevensite to form, raising new questions about the stevensite found on Mars.

"It's much more likely that the stevensite on Mars is made geologically, from volcanic activity," Dr Burne said.

"But our finding -- that stevensite can form around biological organisms -- will encourage re-interpretation of these Martian deposits and their possible links to life on that planet."

Dr Burne and his colleagues from ANU, University of Western Australia and rock imaging company Lithicon, have found microbes can become encrusted by stevensite, which protects their delicate insides and provides the rigidity to allow them to build reef-like structures called "microbialites."

"Microbialites are the earliest large-scale evidence of life on Earth," Dr Burne said. "They demonstrate how microscopic organisms are able to join together to build enormous structures that sometimes rivalled the size of today's coral reefs."

He said the process still happens today in some isolated places like Shark Bay and Lake Clifton in Western Australia.

"Stevensite is usually assumed to require highly alkaline conditions to form, such as volcanic soda lakes. But our stevensite microbialites grow in a lake less salty than seawater and with near-neutral pH."

One of the paper's authors, Dr Penny King from ANU, is a science co-investigator on NASA's Mars Curiosity rover, which uncovered the presence of possible Martian stevensite.

The findings also have implications for how some of the world's largest oil reservoirs were formed.

The discovery was made using ANU-developed imaging technology licensed to Lithicon. The data was run on Raijin, the most powerful supercomputer in the Southern Hemisphere, based at the National Computational Infrastructure in Canberra.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Australian National University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. V. Burne, L. S. Moore, A. G. Christy, U. Troitzsch, P. L. King, A. M. Carnerup, P. J. Hamilton. Stevensite in the modern thrombolites of Lake Clifton, Western Australia: A missing link in microbialite mineralization? Geology, 2014; DOI: 10.1130/G35484.1

Cite This Page:

Australian National University. "Mars mineral could be linked to microbes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140520100529.htm>.
Australian National University. (2014, May 20). Mars mineral could be linked to microbes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140520100529.htm
Australian National University. "Mars mineral could be linked to microbes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140520100529.htm (accessed March 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Universe Could Be Full Of Tatooine Sunsets

The Universe Could Be Full Of Tatooine Sunsets

Newsy (Mar. 30, 2015) University of Utah researchers say mathematical simulations show small, rocky planets, like Tatooine from "Star Wars," can form in dual-star systems. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What NASA Wants To Learn From Its 'Year In Space' Tests

What NASA Wants To Learn From Its 'Year In Space' Tests

Newsy (Mar. 28, 2015) Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend a year in space running tests on human physiology and psychology. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Astronauts Arrive at ISS for 1-Year Mission

Raw: Astronauts Arrive at ISS for 1-Year Mission

AP (Mar. 28, 2015) The capsule carrying a Russian and an American who are to spend a year away from Earth docked Saturday with the International Space Station. (March 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crew Starts One-Year Space Mission

Crew Starts One-Year Space Mission

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 28, 2015) Russian-U.S. crew arrives safely at the International Space Station for the start of a ground-breaking year-long stay. Paul Chapman reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins