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Proceedings Paper

Microfossils, biomolecules and biominerals in carbonaceous meteorites: implications to the origin of life
Author(s): Richard B. Hoover
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Paper Abstract

Environmental and Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (ESEM and FESEM) investigations have shown that a wide variety of carbonaceous meteorites contain the remains of large filaments embedded within freshly fractured interior surfaces of the meteorite rock matrix. The filaments occur singly or in dense assemblages and mats and are often encased within carbon-rich, electron transparent sheaths. Electron Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS) spot analysis and 2D X-Ray maps indicate the filaments rarely have detectable nitrogen levels and exhibit elemental compositions consistent with that interpretation that of the meteorite rock matrix. Many of the meteorite filaments are exceptionally well-preserved and show evidence of cells, cell-wall constrictions and specialized cells and processes for reproduction, nitrogen fixation, attachment and motility. Morphological and morphometric analyses permit many of the filaments to be associated with morphotypes of known genera and species of known filamentous trichomic prokaryotes (cyanobacteria and sulfur bacteria). The presence in carbonaceous meteorites of diagenetic breakdown products of chlorophyll (pristane and phytane) along with indigenous and extraterrestrial chiral protein amino acids, nucleobases and other life-critical biomolecules provides strong support to the hypothesis that these filaments represent the remains of cyanobacteria and other microorganisms that grew on the meteorite parent body. The absence of other life-critical biomolecules in the meteorites and the lack of detectable levels of nitrogen indicate the filaments died long ago and can not possibly represent modern microbial contaminants that entered the stones after they arrived on Earth. This paper presents new evidence for microfossils, biomolecules and biominerals in carbonaceous meteorites and considers the implications to some of the major hypotheses for the Origin of Life.

Paper Details

Date Published: 13 November 2012
PDF: 15 pages
Proc. SPIE 8521, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology XV, 852106 (13 November 2012); doi: 10.1117/12.970948
Show Author Affiliations
Richard B. Hoover, Athens State Univ. (United States)
Univ. of Buckingham (United Kingdom)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8521:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology XV
Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Alexei Yu. Rozanov; Paul C. W. Davies, Editor(s)

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