Morphological biosignatures from relict fossilised sedimentary geological specimens: a Raman spectroscopic study

Authors

  • Howell G. M. Edwards,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Astrobiology and Extremeophile Research, University Analytical Centre, School of Life Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford BD7 1DP, UK
    • Centre for Astrobiology and Extremeophile Research, University Analytical Centre, School of Life Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford BD7 1DP, UK.
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  • Susana E. Jorge Villar,

    1. Centre for Astrobiology and Extremeophile Research, University Analytical Centre, School of Life Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford BD7 1DP, UK
    2. Area de Geodinamica Interna, Facultad de Humanidades y Educacion, Calle Villadiego s/n, 09001 Burgos, Spain
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  • Derek Pullan,

    1. Space Research Centre, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK
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  • Michael D. Hargreaves,

    1. Centre for Astrobiology and Extremeophile Research, University Analytical Centre, School of Life Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford BD7 1DP, UK
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  • Beda A. Hofmann,

    1. Natural History Museum, Bernastrasse 15, CH-3005 Bern, Switzerland
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  • Frances Westall

    1. Centre de Biophysique Biomoleculaire, CNRS, Rue Charles Sadron, Orleans cedex 245071, France
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Abstract

Morphological biosignatures (features related to life) and associated terrestrial sedimentary structures that provide possible sampling targets for the remote astrobiological exploration of planets have been analysed using Raman spectroscopic techniques. The spectral data from a suite of samples comprising crypto-chasmoendoliths, preserved microbial filaments and relict sedimentary structures comprise a preliminary database for the establishment of key Raman biosignatures. This will form the basis for the evaluation of prototype miniaturised instrumentation for the proposed ESA ExoMars mission scheduled for 2013. The Raman spectral biosignatures of carotenoids and scytonemin, organic biomolecules characteristic of the cyanobacterial colonisation of geological matrices and biogeologically modified minerals are also identifiable in the sedimentary specimen materials. The results of this study demonstrate the basis of the molecular recognition of extinct and extant exobiology that will feed into the elemental structural analyses of morphological structures provided by associated SEM, XRD and laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) techniques on robotic analytical landers. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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