Morphogenesis of antarctic paleosols: Martian analogue

W. C. Mahaney, J. M. Dohm, V. R. Baker, Horton E. Newsom, D. Malloch, R. G.V. Hancock, Iain Campbell, D. Sheppard, M. W. Milner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Scopus citations

Abstract

Samples of horizons in paleosols from the Quartermain Mountains of the Antarctic Dry Valleys (Aztec and New Mountain areas) were analyzed for their physical characteristics, mineralogy, chemical composition, and microbiology to determine the accumulation and movement of salts and other soluble constituents and the presence/absence of microbial populations. Salt concentrations are of special interest because they are considered to be a function of age, derived over time, in part from nearby oceanic and high-altitude atmospheric sources. The chemical composition of ancient Mioceneage paleosols in these areas is the direct result of the deposition and weathering of airborne-influxed salts and other materials, as well as the weathering of till derived principally from local dolerite and sandstone outcrops. Paleosols nearer the coast have greater contents of C1, whereas near the inland ice sheet, nitrogen tends to increase on a relative basis. The accumulation and vertical distribution of salts and other soluble chemical elements indicate relative amounts of movement in the profile over long periods of time, in the order of several million years. Four of the six selected subsamples from paleosol horizons in two ancient soil profiles contained nil concentrations of bacteria and fungi. However, two horizons at depths of between 3 and 8 cm, in two profiles, yielded several colonies of the fungi Beauveria bassiana and Penicillium brevicompactum, indicating very minor input of organic carbon. Beauveria bassiana is often reported in association with insects and is used commercially for the biological control of some insect pests. Penicillium species are commonly isolated from Arctic, temperate, and tropical soils and are known to utilize a wide variety of organic carbon and nitrogen compounds. The cold, dry soils of the Antarctic bear a close resemblance to various present and past martian environments where similar weathering could occur and possible microbial populations may exist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-130
Number of pages18
JournalIcarus
Volume154
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Earth
  • Geochemistry
  • Mars, surface
  • Minerology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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    Mahaney, W. C., Dohm, J. M., Baker, V. R., Newsom, H. E., Malloch, D., Hancock, R. G. V., Campbell, I., Sheppard, D., & Milner, M. W. (2001). Morphogenesis of antarctic paleosols: Martian analogue. Icarus, 154(1), 113-130. https://doi.org/10.1006/icar.2001.6667