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Distribution characteristics of lipids from salt sediments in Qaidam Basin and their astrobiological significance

Abstract

On Earth, salt environments are the most relevant analogues to Martian salt deposits with regard to the search for preserved biomolecules. In this study, we analyzed the distribution of lipids in salt samples from Dalangtan and Qarhan in the Qaidam Basin, which is the most important area to carry out analog research of Mars in China. Furthermore, we compared the lipids distribution results with that from other typical Martian analog sites such as the Atacama Desert. Salt samples in the Qaidam Basin are enriched with fatty acid compounds, including normal fatty acids, unsaturated fatty acids, branched fatty acids, and acyclic isoprene acids. In addtion, glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs) and archaeol compounds were also detected in these salt samples. Compared with the hypersaline samples, the clay samples not only have higher abuandance of fatty acids, GDGTs and archaeol compounds, but also a more diversed lipids composition. Only a few lipids were detected in the pure-saline samples, such as archaeol compounds. These clues suggest that content of salt minerals is the major factor affecting the distribution of lipids. This study provides an analogy for detecting and evaluating the traces of life that may exist on Mars.

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Acknowledgements

Jiang WANG and Jiannan ZHAO are acknowledged for their help during field work in the Qaidam Basin. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41903055) and the Science and Technology Program of Guangzhou, China (Grant No. 202002030182).

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Cheng, Z., Xiao, L., Wang, H. et al. Distribution characteristics of lipids from salt sediments in Qaidam Basin and their astrobiological significance. Sci. China Earth Sci. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-021-9812-2

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Keywords

  • Salt sediments
  • Lipids
  • Astrobiology
  • The Qaidam Basin
  • Mars