• Life in the Sabkha: Raman Spectroscopy of Halotrophic Extremophiles of Relevance to Planetary Exploration

      Edwards, Howell G.M.; Mohsin, M.A.; Sadhooni, F.N.; Hassan, N.K.N.; Munshi, Tasnim (2006)
      The Raman spectroscopic biosignatures of halotrophic cyanobacterial extremophiles from sabkha evaporitic saltpans are reported for the first time and ideas about the possible survival strategies in operation have been forthcoming. The biochemicals produced by the cyanobacteria which colonise the interfaces between large plates of clear selenitic gypsum, halite, and dolomitized calcium carbonates in the centre of the salt pans are identifiably different from those which are produced by benthic cyanobacterial mats colonising the surface of the salt pan edges in the intertidal zone. The prediction that similar geological formations would have been present on early Mars and which could now be underlying the highly peroxidised regolith on the surface of the planet has been confirmed by recent satellite observations from Mars orbit and by localised traverses by robotic surface rovers. The successful adoption of miniaturised Raman spectroscopic instrumentation as part of a scientific package for detection of extant life or biomolecular traces of extinct life on proposed future Mars missions will depend critically on interpretation of data from terrestrial Mars analogues such as sabkhas, of which the current study is an example.