A life detection problem in a High Arctic microbial community

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DOIResolve DOI: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pss.2009.06.014
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TypeArticle
Journal titlePlanetary and Space Science
ISSN0032-0633
Volume58
Issue4
Pages623630
SubjectHigh Arctic; cold springs; sulfur oxidizers; biosignature; fluorescence microscopy; FISH
AbstractFluorescent labeling of bacterial cell walls, DNA, and metabolic processes demonstrates high (potentially single molecule) sensitivity, is non-invasive, and in some cases can differentiate strains and species. Robust microscopes such as the custom instruments presented here can provide good image quality in the field and are potentially suitable for flight. However, ambiguous or false-positive results with bacterial stains can occur and can create difficulties in interpretation even on Earth. We present a “real” life detection problem in a sample of biofilms taken from the Canadian High Arctic. The samples consisted of numerous small sulfur-oxidizing bacteria and larger structures resembling fungi or diatoms. The identity of these latter structures remained ambiguous until electron microscopy and X-ray spectroscopy were performed, indicating that they were unusual sulfur minerals probably precipitated by the bacterial communities. While such mineral structures may possibly serve as biosignatures after the cells have disappeared, it is important that they not be mistaken for cells themselves. It is also possible that unusual mineral structures will be performed under extraterrestrial conditions, so great care is needed to differentiate cell structures from minerals.
Publication date
PublisherElsevier
LanguageEnglish
AffiliationNational Research Council Canada
Peer reviewedYes
NRC publication
This is a non-NRC publication

"Non-NRC publications" are publications authored by NRC employees prior to their employment by NRC.

NPARC number23001882
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Record identifier3f0c60a5-aeeb-4d90-9cae-1cd03fbadc84
Record created2017-05-05
Record modified2017-05-05
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