Biosignatures Associated with Organic Matter in Late Paleoproterozoic Stromatolitic Dolomite and Implications for Martian Carbonates

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The documentation of biosignatures in Precambrian rocks is an important requirement in the search for evidence of life on other ancient planetary surfaces. Three major kinds of biosignatures are crucially important: primary microbial sedimentary textures, diagenetic organomineral assemblages, and stable isotope compositions. This study presents new petrographic, mineralogical, and organic geochemical analyses of biosignatures in dolomitic stromatolites from the Pethei Group (N.W.T., Canada) and the Kasegalik Formation of the Belcher Group (Nunavut, Canada). Both are approximately contemporary late Paleoproterozoic stromatolite-bearing dolomitic units deposited after the Great Oxidation Event. Micro-Raman and optical microscopy are used to identify and characterize possible diagenetic biosignatures, which include close spatial association of diagenetic materials (such as ferric-ferrous oxide and anatase) with disseminated organic matter (OM), dolomitic groundmass textures, and mineralized balls. Many of these petrographic relationships point to the oxidation of OM either biotically or abiotically in association with iron reduction and chemically oscillating reactions. Oxidation of OM in these stromatolites is consistent with the widespread oxidation of biomass during the late Paleoproterozoic Shunga-Francevillian Event. Biosignatures identified in this study are also compared with possible carbonate outcrops on Mars, and thereby contribute a basis for comparison with potential biosignatures in ancient martian terrains. Similarities are drawn between the paleoenvironments of the studied units to the Isidis and Chryse planitia as locations for potential extraterrestrial dolomitic stromatolites.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022