Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-5d6d958fb5-c6lpx Total loading time: 0.249 Render date: 2022-11-26T23:07:38.629Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Evidence for life in the isotopic analysis of surface sulphates in the Haughton impact structure, and potential application on Mars

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 January 2012

John Parnell*
Affiliation:
Department of Geology and Petroleum Geology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
Adrian J. Boyce
Affiliation:
Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, Glasgow, UK
Gordon R. Osinski
Affiliation:
University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
Matthew R.M. Izawa
Affiliation:
University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
Neil Banerjee
Affiliation:
University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
Roberta Flemming
Affiliation:
University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
Pascal Lee
Affiliation:
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA

Abstract

The analysis of sulphur isotopic compositions in three sets of surface sulphate samples from the soil zone in the Haughton impact structure shows that they are distinct. They include surface gypsum crusts remobilized from the pre-impact gypsum bedrock (mean δ34S +31‰), efflorescent copiapite and fibroferrite associated with hydrothermal marcasite (mean δ34S −37‰), and gypsum-iron oxide crusts representing weathering of pyritic crater-fill sediments (mean δ34S +7‰). Their different compositions reflect different histories of sulphur cycling. Two of the three sulphates have isotopically light (low δ34S) compositions compared with the gypsum bedrock (mean δ34S +31‰), reflecting derivation by weathering of sulphides (three sets of pyrite/marcasite samples with mean δ34S of −41, −20 and −8‰), which had in turn been precipitated by microbial sulphate reduction. Thus, even in the absence of the parent sulphides due to surface oxidation, evidence of life would be preserved. This indicates that on Mars, where surface oxidation may rule out sampling of sulphides during robotic exploration, but where sulphates are widespread, sulphur isotope analysis is a valuable tool that could be sensitive to any near-surface microbial activity. Other causes of sulphur isotopic fractionation on the surface of Mars are feasible, but any anomalous fractionation would indicate the desirability of further analysis.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Aubrey, A., Cleaves, H.J., Chalmers, J.H., Skelley, A.M., Mathies, R.A., Grunthaner, F.J., Ehrenfreund, P. & Bada, J.L. (2006). Sulfate minerals and organic compounds on Mars. Geology 34, 357360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barlow, N.G. (1990). Constraints on early events in Martian history as derived from the cratering record. J. Geophys. Res. 95, 1419114203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brunner, B. & Bernasconi, S.M. (2005). A revised isotope fractionation model for dissimilatory sulfate reduction in sulfate reducing bacteria. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 69, 47594771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burns, R.G. & Fisher, D.S. (1990). Iron–sulfur mineralogy on Mars: magmatic evolution and chemical weathering products. J. Geophys. Res. 95, B14415B14421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burns, R.G. & Fisher, D.S. (1993). Rates of oxidative weathering on the surface of Mars. J. Geophys. Res. 98, E3365E3372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Canfield, D.E. (2004). The evolution of the Earth surface sulfur reservoir. Am. J. Sci. 304, 839861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chevrier, V., Rochette, P., Mathé, P.-E. & Grauby, O. (2004). Weathering of iron-rich phases in simulated Martian atmospheres. Geology 32, 10331036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Christensen, L.E., Brunner, B., Truong, K.N., Mielke, R.E., Webster, C.R. & Coleman, M. (2007). Measurement of sulfur isotope compositions by tunable laser spectroscopy of SO2. Anal. Chem. 79, 92619268.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cid, A. & Casanova, I. (2001). Sulphates in Martian soils: a clear exobiological target. In Proceedings of the First European Workshop on Exo-Astrbiology (European Space Agency Special Publication 496), pp. 201202. European Space Agency, Noordwijk.Google Scholar
Coleman, M.L. & Moore, M.P. (1978). Direct reduction of sulphates to sulphur dioxide for isotopic analysis. Anal. Chem. 28, 199260.Google Scholar
Crucian, B., Lee, P., Stowe, R., Jones, J., Effenhauser, R., Widen, R. & Sams, C. (2007). Immune system changes during simulated planetary exploration on Devon Island, High Arctic. BMC Immunology 8, 7. doi: 10.1186/1471-2172-8-7.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Detmers, J., Bruchert, V., Habicht, K. & Kuever, J. (2001). Diversity of sulfur isotope fractionations by sulfate-reducing prokaryotes. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 67, 888894.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Farquhar, J., Kim, S.-T. & Masterson, A. (2007). Implications from sulfur isotopes of the Nakhla meteorite for the origin of sulfate on Mars. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 264, 18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Farquhar, J., Savarino, J., Jackson, T.L. & Thiemens, M.H. (2000). Evidence of atmospheric sulphur in the Martian regolith from sulphur isotopes in meteorites. Nature 404, 5052.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Franz, H.B., Mahaffy, P.R. & Farquhar, J. (2007). Preliminary estimate of sulfur isotope ratio precision expected with the sample analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite of the 2009 Mars Science Laboratory. In Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XXXVIII, abstract 1874.Google Scholar
Franz, H.B., Mahaffy, P.R., Kasprzak, W., Lyness, E. & Raaen, E. (2011). Measuring sulfur isotope ratios from solid samples with the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument and the effects of dead time corrections. In 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, abstract 2800.Google Scholar
Furgale, P., Barfoot, T. & Ghafoor, N. (2010). Rover-based surface and subsurface modelling for planetary exploration. Field and Service Robotics 7. Springer Tracts Adv. Robot. 62, 499508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gaillard, F. & Scaillet, B. (2009). The sulfur content of volcanic gases on Mars. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 279, 3443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gendrin, A. et al. (2005). Sulfates in Martian layered terrains: the OMEGA/Mars Express view. Science 307, 15871591.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Glynn, S., Mills, R.A., Palmer, M.R., Pancost, R.D., Severmann, S. & Boyce, A.J. (2006). The role of prokaryotes in supergene alteration of submarine hydrothermal sulfides. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 244, 170185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Greenwood, J.P., Mojzsis, S.J. & Coath, C.D. (2000a). Sulfur isotopic compositions of individual sulfides in Martian meteorites ALH84001 and Nakhla: implications for crust-regolith exchange on Mars. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 184, 2335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Greenwood, J.P., Riciputi, L.R. & McSween, H.Y. (1997). Sulfide isotopic compositions in shergottites and ALH84001, and possible implications for life on Mars. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 61, 44494453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Greenwood, J.P., Riciputi, L.R., McSween, H.Y. & Taylor, L.A. (2000b). Modified sulpfur isotopic compositions of sulfides in the nakhlites and Chassigny. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 64, 11211131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Habicht, K.S. & Canfield, D.E. (1997). Sulfur isotope fractionation during bacterial sulfate reduction in organic-rich sediments. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 24, 53515361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hickey, L.J., Johnson, K.R. & Dawson, M.R. (1988). The stratigraphy, sedimentology, and fossils of the Haughton formation: a post-impact crater-fill, Devon Island, N.W.T., Canada. Meteoritics 23, 221231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnson, S.S., Mischna, M.A., Grove, T.L. & Zuber, M.T. (2008). Sulfur-induced greenhouse warming on early Mars. J. Geophys. Res. 113, doi: 10.1029/2007JE002962.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnston, D.T., Farquhar, J. & Canfield, D.E. (2007). Sulfur isotope insights into microbial sulphate reduction: when microbes meet models. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 71, 39293947.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnston, D.T., Farquhar, J., Habicht, K.S. & Canfield, D.E. (2008). Sulphur isotopes and the search for life: strategies for identifying sulphur metabolisms in the rock record and beyond. Geobiology 6, 425435.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kaplan, I.R. & Hulston, J.R. (1966). The isotopic abundance and content of sulfur in meteorites. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 30, 479496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
King, P.L., Lescinsky, D.T. & Nesbitt, H.W. (2004). The composition and evolution of primordial solutions on Mars, with applications to other planetary bodies. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 68, 49935008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
King, P.L. & McLennan, S.M. (2010). Sulfur on Mars. Elements 6, 107112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kounaves, S.P. et al. (2010). Confirmation of soluble sulfate at the Phoenix landing site: implications for Martian geochemistry and habitability. In 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, abstract 2199.Google Scholar
Lane, M.D., Bishop, J.L., Dyar, M.D., King, P.L., Parente, M. & Hyde, B.C. (2008). Mineralogy of the Paso Robles soils on Mars. Am. Mineral. 93, 728739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lefticariu, L., Pratt, L.M. & Ripley, E.M. (2006). Mineralogic and sulfur isotopic effects accompanying oxidation of pyrite in millimolar solutions of hydrogen perozide at temperatures from 4 to 150°C. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 70, 48894905.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lim, D.S.S. & Douglas, M.S.V. (2003). Limnological characteristics of 22 lakes and ponds in the Haughton Crater region of Devon Island, Nunavut, Canadian High Arctic. Arctic, Antarctic Alpine Res. 35, 509519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lorand, J.-P., Chevrier, V. & Sautter, V. (2005). Sulfide mineralogy and redox conditions in some shergottites. Meteorit. Planet. Sci.(USA) 40, 12571272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Machel, H.G. (2001). Bacterial and thermochemical sulfate reduction in diagenetic settings – old and new insights. Sediment. Geol. 140, 143175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marnocha, C.L., Chevrier, V.F. & Ivey, D.M. (2010). Sulfate-reducing bacteria as a model for life in the martian subsurface. In 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, abstract 1536.Google Scholar
McLennan, S.M.et al. (2005). Provenance and diagenesis of the evaporite-bearing Burns formation, Meridiani Planum, Mars. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 240, 95121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Newsom, H.E. et al. (2009). Simulated rover field test at the Haughton-Mars project impact crater field station. In 40th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, abstract 1446.Google Scholar
Osinski, G.R. & Lee, P. (2005). Intra-crater sedimentary deposits at the Haughton impact structure, Devon Island, Canadian High Arctic. Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 40, 18871899.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Osinski, G.R., Lee, P., Parnell, J., Spray, J.G. & Baron, M. (2005a). A case study of impact-induced hydrothermal activity: the Haughton impact structure, Devon Island, Canadian High Arctic. Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 40, 18591877.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Osinski, G.R., Lee, P., Spray, J.G., Parnell, J., Lim, D.S.S., Bunch, T.E., Cockell, C.S. & Glass, B. (2005b). Geological overview and cratering model for the Haughton impact structure, Devon Island, Canadian High Arctic. Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 40, 17591776.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Osinski, G.R. & Spray, J.G. (2003). Evidence for the shock melting of sulfates from the Haughton impact structure, Arctic Canada. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 215, 357370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Osinski, G.R., Spray, J.G. & Lee, P. (2001). Impact-induced hydrothermal activity within the Haughton impact structure, Arctic Canada: generation of a transient, warm, wet oasis. Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 36, 731745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Parnell, J. et al. (2010). Sulfur isotope signatures for rapid colonization of an impact crater by thermophilic microbes. Geology 38, 271274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Parnell, J., Lee, P., Cockell, C.S. & Osinski, G.R. (2004). Microbial colonization in impact-generated hydrothermal sulphate deposits, Haughton impact structure, and implications for sulphates on Mars. Int. J. Astrobiol. 3, 247256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Righter, K., Pando, K. & Danielson, L.R. (2009). Experimental evidence for sulfur-rich martian magmas: implications for volcanism and surficial sulfur sources. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 288, 235243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Robinson, B.W. & Kusakabe, M. (1975). Quantitative preparation of sulfur dioxide for 34S/32S analyses from sulphides by combustion with cuprous oxide. Anal. Chem. 47, 11791181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rothschild, L.J. (1990). Earth analogs for Martian life. Microbes in evaporites, anew model system for life on Mars. Icarus 88, 246260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shearer, C.K., Layne, G.D., Papike, J.J. & Spilde, M.N. (1996). Sulfur isotopic systematic in alteration assemblages in Martian meteorite Allan Hills 84001. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 60, 29212926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sherlock, S.C., Kelley, S.P., Parnell, J., Green, P., Lee, P., Osinski, G.R. & Cockell, C.S. (2005). Re-evaluating the age of the Haughton impact event. Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 40, 17771787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Space Studies Board (2007). An Astrobiology Strategy for the Exploration of Mars. National Academies Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
Strauss, H. (1997). The isotopic composition of sedimentary sulfur through time. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 132, 97118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tierney, L.L. & Jakosky, B.M. (2008). Assessing the habitability of Meridiani Planum, Mars, based on thermodynamic energy requirements. In Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XXXIX, abstract 1396.Google Scholar
Toran, L. & Harris, R.F. (1989). Interpretation of sulfur and oxygen isotopes in biological and abiological sulfide oxidation. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 53, 2341–2248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
van Zuilen, M. (2008). Stable isotope ratios as a biomarker on Mars. Space Sci. Rev. 135, 221232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wagner, T., Boyce, A.J. & Fallick, A.E. (2002). Laser combustion analysis of δ34S of sulfosalt minerals: determination of the fractionation systematics and some crystal-chemical considerations. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 66, 28552863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yen, A.S. et al. (2008). Hydrothermal processes at Gusev Crater: an evaluation of Paso Robles class soils. J. Geophys. Res. 113, doi: 10.1029/2007JE002978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
5
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Evidence for life in the isotopic analysis of surface sulphates in the Haughton impact structure, and potential application on Mars
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Evidence for life in the isotopic analysis of surface sulphates in the Haughton impact structure, and potential application on Mars
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Evidence for life in the isotopic analysis of surface sulphates in the Haughton impact structure, and potential application on Mars
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *