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Endolithic Microbial Life in Extreme Cold Climate: Snow Is Required, but Perhaps Less Is More
Division of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Las Vegas, NV 89119, USA
Received: 14 December 2012; Accepted: 22 March 2013 / Published: 3 April 2013
Abstract: Cyanobacteria and lichens living under sandstone surfaces in the McMurdo Dry Valleys require snow for moisture. Snow accumulated beyond a thin layer, however, is counterproductive, interfering with rock insolation, snow melting, and photosynthetic access to light. With this in mind, the facts that rock slope and direction control colonization, and that climate change results in regional extinctions, can be explained. Vertical cliffs, which lack snow cover and are perpetually dry, are devoid of organisms. Boulder tops and edges can trap snow, but gravity and wind prevent excessive buildup. There, the organisms flourish. In places where snow-thinning cannot occur and snow drifts collect, rocks may contain living or dead communities. In light of these observations, the possibility of finding extraterrestrial endolithic communities on Mars cannot be eliminated.
Keywords: Antarctica; endolithic microorganisms; snow; cold limit; Mars
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MDPI and ACS Style
Sun, H.J. Endolithic Microbial Life in Extreme Cold Climate: Snow Is Required, but Perhaps Less Is More. Biology 2013, 2, 693-701.
Sun HJ. Endolithic Microbial Life in Extreme Cold Climate: Snow Is Required, but Perhaps Less Is More. Biology. 2013; 2(2):693-701.
Sun, Henry J. 2013. "Endolithic Microbial Life in Extreme Cold Climate: Snow Is Required, but Perhaps Less Is More." Biology 2, no. 2: 693-701.