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From Precambrian Iron-Formation to Terraforming Mars: The JIMES Expedition to Santorini

Robbins, Eleanora Iberall, Kourtidou-Papadeli, Chrysoula, Iberall, Arthur S., Nord,, Gordon L., Sato, Motoaki
Geomicrobiology journal 2016 v.33 no.7 pp. 1-16
Bacillariophyceae, Gallionellaceae, ecosystems, ferrihydrite, hydrochemistry, iron, oxygen, seasonal variation, weather, Greece
The iron embayments at Santorini, Greece, have long been considered by geologists to be the most useful modern environment for understanding variables related to precipitation of Precambrian iron-formation. To help understand the rock record, the embayments were studied almost monthly for a year to assess seasonal variations in iron bacteria and diatoms along with mineralogy, weather, water chemistry, and ecology. Unidentified red rods dominated and accounted for most ferrihydrite production. Diatom abundance was seasonal, including Parlibellus delognei which produces molecular oxygen within iron-coated sheaths. The gross structures of the microbial iron precipitates were in the form of rods, spheres, and braids. Speculations resulting from our observations suggest that life's origin could have been intimately related to chemical/physical processes occurring where volcanic sources discharged iron through highly porous siliceous substrates and into the primitive ocean. The diverse community also provides a potentially useful ecosystem for Mars terraforming experiments.