Molecular preservation in halite- and perchlorate-rich hypersaline subsurface deposits in the Salar Grande basin (Atacama Desert, Chile): Implications for the search for molecular biomarkers on Mars

D. C. Fernández-Remolar, G. Chong-Díaz, M. Ruíz-Bermejo, M. Harir, P. Schmitt-Kopplin, D. Tziotis, D. Gõmez-Ortíz, M. García-Villadangos, M. P. Martín-Redondo, F. Gõmez, J. A. Rodríguez-Manfredi, M. Moreno-Paz, G. De Diego-Castilla, A. Echeverría, V. N. Urtuvia, Y. Blanco, L. Rivas, Matthew Richar Izawa, N. R. Banerjee, C. DemergassoV. Parro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Similarities between the Atacama Desert (Chile) and Mars include extreme aridity, highly oxidizing chemistry, and intense ultraviolet radiation that promoted the photochemical production of perchlorates and nitrates. Concentration of these ions under hyperarid conditions led to the formation of nitrate- and perchlorate-bearing deposits in ephemeral lakes, followed by later deposition of chlorides and sulfates. At some locations, such as the Salar Grande, hypersaline deposits have remained unaltered for millions of years. We conducted a drilling campaign in deposits of the Salar to characterize the preservation state of biological molecules. A 5 m deep discontinuous core was recovered and subjected to multitechnique analysis including the antibody microarray-based biosensor LDChip300 and the SOLID (Signs Of Life Detector) instrument, complemented by geophysical, mineralogical, geochemical, and molecular analysis. We identified two units based on the mineralogy: the upper one, from the surface to ~320 cm depth characterized by a predominance of halite and anhydrite, and the lower one, from 320 to 520 cm, with a drop in halite and anhydrite and an enrichment in nitrate and perchlorate. Organic compounds including biomolecules were detected in association with the different depositional and mineralogical units, demonstrating the high capacity for molecular preservation. Hypersaline environments preserve biomolecules over geologically significant timescales; therefore, salt-bearing materials should be high-priority targets for the search for evidence of life on Mars. Key PointsPreservation of biomolecules in salty deposits of AtacamaSame salty deposits are found in MarsMars salt-enriched deposits have a great astrobiological potential

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)922-939
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Volume118
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

perchlorates
perchlorate
biomarkers
Chile
deserts
halite
Biomarkers
Sodium chloride
mars
biomarker
Mars
Deposits
desert
deposits
nitrates
anhydrite
basins
nitrate
Biomolecules
Bearings (structural)

Keywords

  • Astrobiology
  • Atacama Desert
  • Mars analog
  • preservation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Forestry
  • Ecology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

Cite this

Molecular preservation in halite- and perchlorate-rich hypersaline subsurface deposits in the Salar Grande basin (Atacama Desert, Chile) : Implications for the search for molecular biomarkers on Mars. / Fernández-Remolar, D. C.; Chong-Díaz, G.; Ruíz-Bermejo, M.; Harir, M.; Schmitt-Kopplin, P.; Tziotis, D.; Gõmez-Ortíz, D.; García-Villadangos, M.; Martín-Redondo, M. P.; Gõmez, F.; Rodríguez-Manfredi, J. A.; Moreno-Paz, M.; De Diego-Castilla, G.; Echeverría, A.; Urtuvia, V. N.; Blanco, Y.; Rivas, L.; Richar Izawa, Matthew; Banerjee, N. R.; Demergasso, C.; Parro, V.

In: Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, Vol. 118, No. 2, 01.06.2013, p. 922-939.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Fernández-Remolar, DC, Chong-Díaz, G, Ruíz-Bermejo, M, Harir, M, Schmitt-Kopplin, P, Tziotis, D, Gõmez-Ortíz, D, García-Villadangos, M, Martín-Redondo, MP, Gõmez, F, Rodríguez-Manfredi, JA, Moreno-Paz, M, De Diego-Castilla, G, Echeverría, A, Urtuvia, VN, Blanco, Y, Rivas, L, Richar Izawa, M, Banerjee, NR, Demergasso, C & Parro, V 2013, 'Molecular preservation in halite- and perchlorate-rich hypersaline subsurface deposits in the Salar Grande basin (Atacama Desert, Chile): Implications for the search for molecular biomarkers on Mars', Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, vol. 118, no. 2, pp. 922-939. https://doi.org/10.1002/jgrg.20059
Fernández-Remolar, D. C. ; Chong-Díaz, G. ; Ruíz-Bermejo, M. ; Harir, M. ; Schmitt-Kopplin, P. ; Tziotis, D. ; Gõmez-Ortíz, D. ; García-Villadangos, M. ; Martín-Redondo, M. P. ; Gõmez, F. ; Rodríguez-Manfredi, J. A. ; Moreno-Paz, M. ; De Diego-Castilla, G. ; Echeverría, A. ; Urtuvia, V. N. ; Blanco, Y. ; Rivas, L. ; Richar Izawa, Matthew ; Banerjee, N. R. ; Demergasso, C. ; Parro, V. / Molecular preservation in halite- and perchlorate-rich hypersaline subsurface deposits in the Salar Grande basin (Atacama Desert, Chile) : Implications for the search for molecular biomarkers on Mars. In: Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. 2013 ; Vol. 118, No. 2. pp. 922-939.
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T2 - Implications for the search for molecular biomarkers on Mars

AU - Fernández-Remolar, D. C.

AU - Chong-Díaz, G.

AU - Ruíz-Bermejo, M.

AU - Harir, M.

AU - Schmitt-Kopplin, P.

AU - Tziotis, D.

AU - Gõmez-Ortíz, D.

AU - García-Villadangos, M.

AU - Martín-Redondo, M. P.

AU - Gõmez, F.

AU - Rodríguez-Manfredi, J. A.

AU - Moreno-Paz, M.

AU - De Diego-Castilla, G.

AU - Echeverría, A.

AU - Urtuvia, V. N.

AU - Blanco, Y.

AU - Rivas, L.

AU - Richar Izawa, Matthew

AU - Banerjee, N. R.

AU - Demergasso, C.

AU - Parro, V.

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