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Article

Trace Element Concentrations Associated with Mid-Paleozoic Microfossils as Biosignatures to Aid in the Search for Life †

1
Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221, USA
2
United States Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC 20375, USA
3
School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington, NSW 2033, Australia
4
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
5
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis, MO 63105, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
This manuscript is dedicated to the memory of John Zawiskie.
Life 2021, 11(2), 142; https://doi.org/10.3390/life11020142
Received: 16 October 2020 / Revised: 3 February 2021 / Accepted: 9 February 2021 / Published: 13 February 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Frontiers of Astrobiology)
Identifying microbial fossils in the rock record is a difficult task because they are often simple in morphology and can be mimicked by non-biological structures. Biosignatures are essential for identifying putative fossils as being definitively biological in origin, but are often lacking due to geologic effects which can obscure or erase such signs. As such, there is a need for robust biosignature identification techniques. Here we show new evidence for the application of trace elements as biosignatures in microfossils. We found elevated concentrations of magnesium, aluminum, manganese, iron, and strontium colocalized with carbon and sulfur in microfossils from Drummond Basin, a mid-Paleozoic hot spring deposit in Australia. Our results also suggest that trace element sequestrations from modern hot spring deposits persist through substantial host rock alteration. Because some of the oldest fossils on Earth are found in hot spring deposits and ancient hot spring deposits are also thought to occur on Mars, this biosignature technique may be utilized as a valuable tool to aid in the search for extraterrestrial life. View Full-Text
Keywords: biosignatures; biogeochemistry; trace elements; microfossils; hot springs biosignatures; biogeochemistry; trace elements; microfossils; hot springs
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MDPI and ACS Style

Gangidine, A.; Walter, M.R.; Havig, J.R.; Jones, C.; Sturmer, D.M.; Czaja, A.D. Trace Element Concentrations Associated with Mid-Paleozoic Microfossils as Biosignatures to Aid in the Search for Life. Life 2021, 11, 142. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11020142

AMA Style

Gangidine A, Walter MR, Havig JR, Jones C, Sturmer DM, Czaja AD. Trace Element Concentrations Associated with Mid-Paleozoic Microfossils as Biosignatures to Aid in the Search for Life. Life. 2021; 11(2):142. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11020142

Chicago/Turabian Style

Gangidine, Andrew, Malcolm R. Walter, Jeff R. Havig, Clive Jones, Daniel M. Sturmer, and Andrew D. Czaja. 2021. "Trace Element Concentrations Associated with Mid-Paleozoic Microfossils as Biosignatures to Aid in the Search for Life" Life 11, no. 2: 142. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11020142

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