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Lichen biomarkers upon heating: a Raman spectroscopic study with implications for extra-terrestrial exploration

  • I. Miralles (a1) (a2), C. Capel Ferrón (a3), V. Hernández (a4), J. T. López-Navarrete (a4) and S. E. Jorge-Villar (a5) (a6)...

Abstract

Lithopanspermia Theory has suggested that life was transferred among planets by meteorites and other rocky bodies. If the planet had an atmosphere, this transfer of life had to survive drastic temperature changes in a very short time in its entry or exit. Only organisms able to endure such a temperature range could colonize a planet from outer space. Many experiments are being carried out by NASA and European Space Agency to understand which organisms were able to survive and how. Among the suite of instruments designed for extraplanetary exploration, particularly for Mars surface exploration, a Raman spectrometer was selected with the main objective of looking for life signals. Among all attributes, Raman spectroscopy is able to identify organic and inorganic compounds, either pure or in admixture, without requiring sample manipulation. In this study, we used Raman spectroscopy to examine the lichen Squamarina lentigera biomarkers. We analyse spectral signature changes after sample heating under different experimental situations, such as (a) laser, (b) analysis accumulations over the same spot and (c) environmental temperature increase. Our goal is to evaluate the capability of Raman spectroscopy to identify unambiguously life markers even if heating has induced spectral changes, reflecting biomolecular transformations. Usnic acid, chlorophyll, carotene and calcium oxalates were identified by the Raman spectra. From our experiments, we have seen that usnic acid, carotene and calcium oxalates (the last two have been suggested to be good biomarkers) respond in a different way to environmental heating. Our main conclusion is that despite their abundance in nature or their inorganic composition the resistance to heat makes some molecules more suitable than others as biomarkers.

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Keywords

Lichen biomarkers upon heating: a Raman spectroscopic study with implications for extra-terrestrial exploration

  • I. Miralles (a1) (a2), C. Capel Ferrón (a3), V. Hernández (a4), J. T. López-Navarrete (a4) and S. E. Jorge-Villar (a5) (a6)...

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