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The microbial communities of sulfur caves; a newly appreciated geologically driven system on Earth and potential model for Mars

Penelope J. Boston, Louise D. Hose, Diana E. Northup and Michael N. Spilde
The microbial communities of sulfur caves; a newly appreciated geologically driven system on Earth and potential model for Mars (in Perspectives on karst geomorphology, hydrology, and geochemistry; a tribute volume to Derek C. Ford and William B. White, Russell S. Harmon (editor) and Carol M. Wicks (editor))
Special Paper - Geological Society of America (2006) 404: 331-344

Abstract

A handful of investigative teams in several parts of the world are studying abundant biological communities in caves formed by sulfuric-acid speleogenesis. These caves are atypical in terms of origin, chemistry, and ecosystem properties. They prominently display sulfur minerals, characteristic cavity topologies, and notable biological diversity and biological productivity resulting directly from the conditions that produce the caves. Even long-inactive systems still harbor some of these indicators. The microbial and macroscopic ecosystems within sulfuric-acid speleogenetic caves are geologically mediated and maintained. This geological mediation is a theme connecting them with other sulfur-driven ecosystems on Earth, including deep-sea hydrothermal vents, sulfurous near-surface hydrothermal systems, and solfataras. Evidence exists for potentially significant microbial participation in the process of speleogenesis itself. Recent results confirming the high relative abundance of sulfur on Mars, an apparent sedimentary basin with high sulfate concentration, near-surface indicators of ice and water, and trace detection of reduced gases (especially methane) in the Martian atmosphere, possibly deriving from subsurface microbial sources, set the stage for suggesting that sulfuric-acid speleogenetic systems may be useful as astrobiological analogs for hypothetical Mars ecosystems. Unique speleogenetic mechanisms may occur on Mars and could provide subsurface void space suitable for habitation by such hypothetical microbial systems.


ISSN: 0072-1077
EISSN: 2331-219X
Coden: GSAPAZ
Serial Title: Special Paper - Geological Society of America
Serial Volume: 404
Title: The microbial communities of sulfur caves; a newly appreciated geologically driven system on Earth and potential model for Mars
Title: Perspectives on karst geomorphology, hydrology, and geochemistry; a tribute volume to Derek C. Ford and William B. White
Author(s): Boston, Penelope J.Hose, Louise D.Northup, Diana E.Spilde, Michael N.
Author(s): Harmon, Russell S.editor
Author(s): Wicks, Carol M.editor
Affiliation: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Socorro, NM, United States
Affiliation: U. S. Army Research Office, Environmental Sciences Division, Research Triangle Park, NC, United States
Pages: 331-344
Published: 2006
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
ISBN: 978-0-8137-2404-1
ISBN: 0-8137-2404-7
References: 130
Accession Number: 2006-075428
Categories: GeomorphologyExtraterrestrial geology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. block diags., 2 tables, sketch map
N32°00'00" - N32°15'00", W104°49'60" - W104°30'00"
Secondary Affiliation: University of Missouri-Columbia, USA, United StatesNational Cave and Karst Research Institute, USA, United StatesUniversity of New Mexico, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute.
Update Code: 200643
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