Microbially Induced Sedimentary Structures in Clastic Deposits: Implication for the Prospection for Fossil Life on Mars
Abundant and well-preserved fossil microbenthos occurs in siliciclastic deposits of all Earth ages, from the early Archean to today. Studies in modern settings show how microbenthos responds to sediment dynamics by baffling and trapping, binding, biostabilization, and growth. Results of this microbial-sediment interaction are microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS). Successful prospection for rich MISS occurrences in the terrestrial lithological record requires unraveling genesis and taphonomy of MISS, both of which are defined only by a narrow range of specific conditions. These conditions have to coincide with high detectability which is a function of outcrop quality, bedding character, and rock type. Assertions on biogenicity of MISS morphologies must be based on the presence of microbially induced sedimentary textures (MIST), which are MISS-internal textures comprising replacement minerals arranged into microscopic biological morphologies, ancient carbonaceous matter, trace fossils, and geochemical signals. MISS serve as possible templates for the decryption of ancient life-processes on Mars. This article closes with a perspective on selected deposits and ancient environments in Meridiani Planum, Gale Crater, and Jezero Crater, Mars, regarding their potential for MISS occurrences. The earlier hypothesis of structures on Mars as potentially being MISS is revised.
© Nora Noffke, 2021
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Original Publication Citation
Noffke, N. (2021). Microbially induced sedimentary structures in clastic deposits: Implication for the prospection for fossil life on Mars. Astrobiology, 21(7), 866-892. https://doi.org/10.1089/ast.2021.0011
Noffke, Nora, "Microbially Induced Sedimentary Structures in Clastic Deposits: Implication for the Prospection for Fossil Life on Mars" (2021). OES Faculty Publications. 409.
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