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Preservation of Microbial Lipids in Geothermal Sinters
Kaur, G.; Mountain, B.W.; Hopmans, E.C.; Pancost, R.D. (2011). Preservation of Microbial Lipids in Geothermal Sinters. Astrobiol. 11(3): 259-274. dx.doi.org/10.1089/ast.2010.0540
In: Astrobiology. Mary Ann Liebert: Larchmont, N.Y.. ISSN 1531-1074, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Extremophiles; Silica sinters; Lipid biomarkers; Archaeol; Bacterialdiethers; Fatty acids

Authors  Top 
  • Kaur, G.
  • Mountain, B.W.
  • Hopmans, E.C., more
  • Pancost, R.D.

Abstract
    Lipid biomarkers are widely used to study the earliest life on Earth and have been invoked as potential astrobiological markers, but few studies have assessed their survival and persistence in geothermal settings. Here, we investigate lipid preservation in active and inactive geothermal silica sinters, with ages of up to 900 years, from Champagne Pool, Waiotapu, New Zealand. Analyses revealed a wide range of bacterial biomarkers, including free and bound fatty acids, 1,2-di-O-alkylglycerols (diethers), and various hopanoids. Dominant archaeal lipids include archaeol and glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs). The predominance of generally similar biomarker groups in all sinters suggests a stable microbial community throughout Champagne Pool's history and indicates that incorporated lipids can be well preserved. Moreover, subtle differences in lipid distributions suggest that past changes in environmental conditions can be elucidated. In this case, higher archaeol abundances relative to the bacterial diethers, a greater proportion of cyclic GDGTs, the high average chain length of the bacterial diethers, and greater concentrations of hopanoic acids in the older sinters all suggest hotter conditions at Champagne Pool in the past.

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