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Open AccessArticle

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
Biology 2013, 2(2), 693-701; https://doi.org/10.3390/biology2020693
Received: 14 December 2012 / Accepted: 22 March 2013 / Published: 3 April 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Polar Microbiology: Recent Advances and Future Perspectives)
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. View Full-Text
Keywords: Antarctica; endolithic microorganisms; snow; cold limit; Mars Antarctica; endolithic microorganisms; snow; cold limit; Mars
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Sun, H.J. Endolithic Microbial Life in Extreme Cold Climate: Snow Is Required, but Perhaps Less Is More. Biology 2013, 2, 693-701.

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