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Raman spectroscopy of senescing snow algae: pigmentation changes in an Antarctic cold desert extremophile

  • Howell G.M. Edwards (a1), Luiz F.C. de Oliveira (a1) (a2), Charles S. Cockell (a3), J. Cynan Ellis-Evans (a3) and David D. Wynn-Williams (a3)...

Abstract

The FT-Raman spectra are described of green and red snow algae, Chlamydomona, involved in the colonization of exposed surfaces of the McLeod Glacier, Jane Col, Signy Island, situated at the northern edge of the Weddell Sea, Antarctica. The protective biochemicals produced by these extremophilic algae give rise to the so-called watermelon snow of Alpine regions. The red colour of the senescent algae is shown to derive from the accumulation of carotenoids and a deficiency of chlorophyll believed to arise from UV-radiation induced breakdown into phaecophytin. A comparison of the Raman spectra of young (green) and old (red) algae is effected and possible bio-markers for spectral detection on extraterrestrial icy moons and planets are identified.

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