Geological evidence and atmospheric and climate models suggest habitable conditions occurred on early Mars, including in a lake in Gale crater. Instruments aboard the Curiosity rover measured organic compounds of unknown provenance in sedimentary mudstones at Gale crater. Additionally, Curiosity measured nitrates in Gale crater sediments, which suggests that nitrate-dependent Fe2+ oxidation (NDFO) may have been a viable metabolism for putative martian life. Here, we perform the first quantitative assessment of an NDFO community that could have existed in an ancient Gale crater lake and quantify the long-term preservation of biological necromass in lakebed mudstones. We find that an NDFO community would have the capacity to produce cell concentrations of up to 106 cells mL-1, which is comparable to microbes in Earth's oceans. However, only a concentration of <104 cells mL-1, due to organisms that inefficiently consume less than 10% of precipitating nitrate, would be consistent with the abundance of organics found at Gale. We also find that meteoritic sources of organics would likely be insufficient as a sole source for the Gale crater organics, which would require a separate source, such as abiotic hydrothermal or atmospheric production or possibly biological production from a slowly turning over chemotrophic community.

Full Text
Published version (Free)

Talk to us

Join us for a 30 min session where you can share your feedback and ask us any queries you have

Schedule a call