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Paper: Methane Production on Rock and Soil Substrates by Methanogens: Implications for Life on Mars
Volume: 420, Bioastronomy 2007: Molecules, Microbes and Extraterrestrial Life
Page: 137
Authors: Kozup, H. A.; Kral, T. A.
Abstract: In order to understand the methanogens as models for possible life on Mars, and some of the factors likely to be important in determining their abundance and distribution, we have measured their ability to produce methane on a few types of inorganic rock and soil substrates. Since organic materials have not been detected in measurable quantities at the surface of Mars, there is no reason to believe that they would exist in the subsurface. Samples of three methanogens (Methanosarcina barkeri, Methanobacterium formicicum, and Methanothermobacter wolfeii) were placed on four substrates (sand, gravel, basalt, and a Mars soil simulant, JSC Mars-1) and methane production measured. Glass beads were used as a control substrate. As in earlier experiments with JSC Mars-1 soil simulant, a crushed volcanic tephra, methane was produced by all three methanogens when placed on the substrates, sand and gravel. None produced methane on basalt in these experiments, a mineral common in Martian soil. While these substrates do not represent the full range of materials likely to be present on the surface of Mars, the present results suggest that while some surface materials on Mars may not support this type of organism, others might.
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