BibTex format

author = {Tan, J and Sephton, M},
doi = {10.1089/ast.2019.2046},
journal = {Astrobiology},
pages = {53--72},
title = {Organic records of early life on Mars: the role of iron, burial and kinetics on preservation},
url = {},
volume = {20},
year = {2020}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

AB - Samples that are likely to contain evidence of past life on Mars must have been deposited when and where environments exhibited habitable conditions. Mars analogue sites provide the opportunity to study how life could have exploited such habitable conditions. Acidic iron- and sulfur-rich streams are good geochemical analogues for the late Noachian and early Hesperian, periods of Martian history where habitable conditions were widespread. Past life on Mars would have left behind fossilised microbial organic remains and these are often-sought diagnostic evidence, but must be shielded from the harsh radiation flux at the Martian surface and its deleterious effect on organic matter. One mechanism that promotes such preservation is burial, which raises questions about how organic biomarkers are influenced by the post-burial effects of diagenesis. We investigated the kinetics of organic degradation in the subsurface of Mars. Natural mixtures of acidic iron- and sulfur-rich stream sediments and their associated microbial populations and remains were subjected to hydrous pyrolysis, which simulated the increased temperatures and pressures of burial alongside any promoted organic-mineral interactions. Calculations were made to extrapolate the observed changes over Martian history. Our experiments indicate that low carbon contents, high water-to-rock ratios, and the presence of iron-rich minerals combine to provide unfavourable conditions for the preservation of organic matter over the billions of years necessary to produce present day organic records of late Noachian and early Hesperian life on Mars. Successful sample selection strategies must therefore consider the pre-, syn- and post-burial histories of sedimentary records on Mars and the balance between the production of biomass and the long-term preservation of organic biomarkers over geological time.
AU - Tan,J
AU - Sephton,M
DO - 10.1089/ast.2019.2046
EP - 72
PY - 2020///
SN - 1531-1074
SP - 53
TI - Organic records of early life on Mars: the role of iron, burial and kinetics on preservation
T2 - Astrobiology
UR -
UR -
UR -
VL - 20
ER -