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Review

Extant Earthly Microbial Mats and Microbialites as Models for Exploration of Life in Extraterrestrial Mat Worlds

1
Annis Water Resources Institute, Grand Valley State University, Muskegon, MI 49441, USA
2
Biology Department, Muskegon Community College, Muskegon, MI 49442, USA
3
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Alpena, MI 49707, USA
4
Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ann Arbor, MI 48108, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Jay Nadeau
Life 2021, 11(9), 883; https://doi.org/10.3390/life11090883
Received: 30 June 2021 / Revised: 13 August 2021 / Accepted: 25 August 2021 / Published: 27 August 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microbial Life in the Solar System)
As we expand the search for life beyond Earth, a water-dominated planet, we turn our eyes to other aquatic worlds. Microbial life found in Earth’s many extreme habitats are considered useful analogs to life forms we are likely to find in extraterrestrial bodies of water. Modern-day benthic microbial mats inhabiting the low-oxygen, high-sulfur submerged sinkholes of temperate Lake Huron (Michigan, USA) and microbialites inhabiting the shallow, high-carbonate waters of subtropical Laguna Bacalar (Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico) serve as potential working models for exploration of extraterrestrial life. In Lake Huron, delicate mats comprising motile filaments of purple-pigmented cyanobacteria capable of oxygenic and anoxygenic photosynthesis and pigment-free chemosynthetic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria lie atop soft, organic-rich sediments. In Laguna Bacalar, lithification by cyanobacteria forms massive carbonate reef structures along the shoreline. Herein, we document studies of these two distinct earthly microbial mat ecosystems and ponder how similar or modified methods of study (e.g., robotics) would be applicable to prospective mat worlds in other planets and their moons (e.g., subsurface Mars and under-ice oceans of Europa). Further studies of modern-day microbial mat and microbialite ecosystems can add to the knowledge of Earth’s biodiversity and guide the search for life in extraterrestrial hydrospheres. View Full-Text
Keywords: mat worlds; microbial mats; microbialites; cyanobacteria; motile microbes; photosynthesis; chemosynthesis; extraterrestrial life models; exobiology mat worlds; microbial mats; microbialites; cyanobacteria; motile microbes; photosynthesis; chemosynthesis; extraterrestrial life models; exobiology
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MDPI and ACS Style

Biddanda, B.; Weinke, A.; Stone, I.; Kendall, S.; Hartmeyer, P.; Lusardi, W.; Gandulla, S.; Bright, J.; Ruberg, S. Extant Earthly Microbial Mats and Microbialites as Models for Exploration of Life in Extraterrestrial Mat Worlds. Life 2021, 11, 883. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11090883

AMA Style

Biddanda B, Weinke A, Stone I, Kendall S, Hartmeyer P, Lusardi W, Gandulla S, Bright J, Ruberg S. Extant Earthly Microbial Mats and Microbialites as Models for Exploration of Life in Extraterrestrial Mat Worlds. Life. 2021; 11(9):883. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11090883

Chicago/Turabian Style

Biddanda, Bopaiah, Anthony Weinke, Ian Stone, Scott Kendall, Phil Hartmeyer, Wayne Lusardi, Stephanie Gandulla, John Bright, and Steven Ruberg. 2021. "Extant Earthly Microbial Mats and Microbialites as Models for Exploration of Life in Extraterrestrial Mat Worlds" Life 11, no. 9: 883. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11090883

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