Coleoptera and microbe biomass in Antarctic Dry Valley paleosols adjacent to the Inland Ice: Implications for Mars

William C. Mahaney*, Kris M. Hart, Shane S. O'Reilly, Christopher C. R. Allen, James M. Dohm, Ronald G. V. Hancock, Brian P. Kelleher, Michael W. Milner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Bulk paleosol samples collected from a Middle to Early Miocene moraine in the New Mountain area of the Dry Valleys, Antarctica, yielded Coleoptera exoskeletons and occasional endoskeletons showing considerable diagenetic effects along with several species of bacteria, all lodged in a dry-frozen but salt-rich horizon at shallow depth to the land surface. The till is at the older end of a chronologic sequence of glacial deposits, thought to have been deposited before the transition from wet-based to cold-based ice (similar to 15 Ma), and hence, entirely weathered in contact with the subaerial atmosphere. It is possible, though not absolutely verifiable, that the skeletons date from this early stage of emplacement having undergone modifications whenever light snowmelt occurred or salt concentrations lowered the freezing temperature to maintain water as liquid. Correlation of the Coleoptera species with cultured bacteria in the sample and the likelihood of co-habitation with Beauveria bassiani found in two adjacent, although younger paleosols, leads to new questions about the antiquity of the Coleoptera and the source of N and glucose from chitinase derived from the insects. The skeletons in the 831 section may date close to the oldest preserved chitin (Oligocene) yet found on Earth. While harsh Martian conditions make it seemingly intolerable for complex, multicellular organisms such as insects to exist in the near-surface and subaerially, life within similar cold, dry paleosol microenvironments (Cryosols) of Antarctica point to life potential for the Red Planet, especially when considering the relatively diverse microbe (bacteria and fungi) population. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-398
Number of pages13
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Volume60
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

Keywords

  • Paleosols in the Dry Valleys
  • Antarctica and on Mars
  • SEM analysis of Coleoptera in Dry Valley paleosols
  • Bacteriology of Antarctic paleosols
  • GRADIENT GEL-ELECTROPHORESIS
  • 16S RIBOSOMAL-RNA
  • EXTRACTABLE FE
  • CONTINENTAL ANTARCTICA
  • BACTERIAL COMMUNITY
  • DEGRADING BACTERIA
  • DNA EXTRACTION
  • AEOLIAN BIOME
  • SP NOV.
  • SOILS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

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