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An Unusual Inverted Saline Microbial Mat Community in an Interdune Sabkha in the Rub' al Khali (the Empty Quarter), United Arab Emirates

Title: An Unusual Inverted Saline Microbial Mat Community in an Interdune Sabkha in the Rub' al Khali (the Empty Quarter), United Arab Emirates.
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Name(s): McKay, Christopher P., author
Rask, Jon C., author
Detweiler, Angela M., author
Bebout, Brad M., author
Everroad, R. Craig, author
Lee, Jackson Z., author
Chanton, Jeffrey P., author
Mayer, Marisa H., author
Caraballo, Adrian A. L., author
Kapili, Bennett, author
Al-Awar, Meshgan, author
Al-Farraj, Asma, author
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Date Issued: 2016-03-16
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Salt flats (sabkha) are a recognized habitat for microbial life in desert environments and as analogs of habitats for possible life on Mars. Here we report on the physical setting and microbiology of interdune sabkhas among the large dunes in the Rub' al Khali (the Empty Quarter) in Liwa Oasis, United Arab Emirates. The salt flats, composed of gypsum and halite, are moistened by relatively fresh ground water. The result is a salinity gradient that is inverted compared to most salt flat communities with the hypersaline layer at the top and freshwater layers below. We describe and characterize a rich photosynthetically-based microbial ecosystem that is protected from the arid outside environment by a translucent salt crust. Gases collected from sediments under shallow ponds in the sabkha contain methane in concentrations as high as 3400 ppm. The salt crust could preserve biomarkers and other evidence for life in the salt after it dries out. Chloride-filled depressions have been identified on Mars and although surface flow of water is unlikely on Mars today, ground water is possible. Such a near surface system with modern groundwater flowing under ancient salt deposits could be present on Mars and could be accessed by surface rovers.
Identifier: FSU_libsubv1_wos_000372574900036 (IID), 10.1371/journal.pone.0150342 (DOI)
Keywords: 16s ribosomal-rna, abu-dhabi, biosignatures, death-valley, evaporite deposits, genome sequence, halophilic bacterium, mars, methane, substrate limitation
Publication Note: The publisher’s version of record is available at http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150342
Persistent Link to This Record: http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_libsubv1_wos_000372574900036
Owner Institution: FSU
Is Part Of: Plos One.
1932-6203
Issue: iss. 3, vol. 11

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McKay, C. P., Rask, J. C., Detweiler, A. M., Bebout, B. M., Everroad, R. C., Lee, J. Z., … Al-Farraj, A. (2016). An Unusual Inverted Saline Microbial Mat Community in an Interdune Sabkha in the Rub' al Khali (the Empty Quarter), United Arab Emirates. Plos One. Retrieved from http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_libsubv1_wos_000372574900036