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Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography


Abundant resources and efforts have been employed in the search for life on Mars. Satellites, landers, and rovers have tested atmospheric gases, general sediment and rock compositions, and images of Mars surface in an effort to detect biosignatures left by any possible modern or ancient life. Chloride and sulfate minerals suggestive of past acid saline lakes have been found on Mars. In terrestrial acid brine environments, these minerals trap microorganisms and organic compounds and preserve them within fluid inclusions and as solid inclusions for long geologic time periods. Some cells remain viable, especially in the isolated, microscopic aqueous environments of fluid inclusions. Fluid inclusions in these same saline minerals on Mars have yet to be examined. This paper describes petrographic and geochemical methods that have been used recently to detect and make general identifications of microorganisms and organic compounds preserved in modern and Permian Mars-analog acid saline lake halite and gypsum. It then makes recommendations for how Martian chemical sediments could be examined for these biosignatures, both by rovers and in returned samples. This new protocol for the examination of Martian chemical sediments and sedimentary rocks may provide the next step for detection of any preserved biosignatures on Mars.

Source Citation

Benison, K. C. (2019). How to Search for Life in Martian Chemical Sediments and Their Fluid and Solid Inclusions Using Petrographic and Spectroscopic Methods. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 7.


© 2019 Benison. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

This article received support from the WVU Libraries' Open Access Author Fund.

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