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Proceedings Paper

Microbial extremophiles in evolutionary aspect
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Paper Abstract

The microflora of the cryosphere of planet Earth provides the best analogs for life forms that might be found in the permafrost or polar ice caps of Mars, near the surface of the cometary nuclei, or in the liquid water beneath the ice crusts of icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. For astrobiology the focus on the study alkaliphilic microorganisms was enhanced by the findings of abundant carbonates and carbonate globules rimmed with possibly biogenic magnetites in association with the putative microfossils in the ALH84001 meteorite. Although the ALH84001 "nanofossils" were too small and simple to be unambiguously recognized as biogenic, they stimulated Astrobiology research and studies of microbial extremophiles and biomarkers in ancient rocks and meteorites. Recent studies of CI and CM carbonaceous meteorites have resulted in the detection of the well-preserved mineralized remains of coccoidal and filamentous microorganisms in cyanobacterial mats. Energy Dispersive X-ray Analysis has shown anomalous biogenic element ratios clearly indicating they are not recent biological contaminants. This paper reviews microbial extremophiles in context of their significance to Astrobiology and the evolution of life. Extremophilic microorganisms on Earth are models for life that might endure high radiation environments in the ice near the surface of comets or on the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn and in the seafloor deep beneath the icy crusts of Europa and Enceladus.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 October 2007
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 6694, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology X, 66941C (1 October 2007); doi: 10.1117/12.742289
Show Author Affiliations
Elena V. Pikuta, NASA Marshall Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
National Space Science and Technology Ctr. (United States)
Richard B. Hoover, NASA Marshall Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
National Space Science and Technology Ctr. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6694:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology X
Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Alexei Y. Rozanov; Paul C. W. Davies, Editor(s)

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