The mineralogical and chemical characteristics of the fine-grained matrix (< or = 3 micrometers) of the unique primitive carbonaceous chondrite Acfer 094 have been investigated in detail by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and analytical transmission electron microscopy (ATEM). Generally, the fine-grained matrix represents a highly unequilibrated assemblage of an amorphous material, small forsteritic olivines (200-300 nm), low Ca-pyroxenes (300-400 nm), and Fe,Ni-sulfides (100-300 nm). The matrix is basically unaffected by secondary processes. Only minor amounts of serpentine and ferrihydrite, as products of hydrous alteration, are present. Texturally, the amorphous material acts as a groundmass to olivines, pyroxenes, and sulfides, mostly exhibiting rounded or elongated morphologies. Only very few clastic mineral grains have been found. The texture and chemical composition of the amorphous material are consistent with an origin by disequilibrium condensation in either the cooling solar nebula or a circumstellar environment. As such, the amorphous material may be considered as a possible precursor of matrix materials in other types of chondrites. The non-clastic matrix olivines (Fo98-99) and pyroxenes (En97-100) are suggested to have formed either by condensation in the solar nebula under highly oxidizing conditions or by recrystallization from the amorphous material. The formation of these grains by fragmentation of chondrule components is unlikely due to chemical and microstructural reasons. Rapid cooling caused the observed intergrowths of clino/orthoenstatite in the Mg-rich matrix pyroxenes. Although some similarities exist comparing the fine-grained matrix of Acfer 094 with the matrices of the unequilibrated CO3 chondrite ALHA77307 and the unique type 3 chondrite Kakangari, Acfer 094 remains unique. Since it contains the highest measured concentrations of circumstellar SiC and the second highest of diamond (highest is Orgueil), it seems reasonable to suggested that at least parts of the amorphous material in the fine-grained matrix may be of circumstellar origin.
A large number of aqueous metal complexes contribute significantly to hydrothermal, metamorphic, and magmatic processes in the crust of the Earth. Nevertheless, relatively few thermodynamic data other than dissociation constants (K) for a few dozen of these complexes have been determined experimentally at elevated temperatures and pressures. The calculations summarized below are intended to supplement these experimental data by providing interim predictions of the thermodynamic properties of supercritical aqueous metal complexes using the revised HKF (Helgeson et al., 1981) equations of state for aqueous species (Tanger and Helgeson, 1988; Shock et al., 1992) and correlations among equations of state parameters and standard partial molal properties at 25 degrees C and 1 bar (Shock and Helgeson, 1988, 1990; Shock et al., 1989). These equations and correlations permit retrieval of the conventional standard partial molal entropies (mean S0), volumes (mean V0), and heat capacities (mean C0P) of aqueous metal complexes at 25 degrees C and 1 bar from published values of log K in the supercritical region and the limited number of experimental dissociation constants available in the literature over relatively short ranges of elevated temperature at PSAT (PSAT and SAT are used in the present communication to refer to pressures corresponding to liquid-vapor equilibrium for the system H2O except at temperatures <100 degrees C, where they refer to the reference pressure of 1 bar). The standard partial molal properties computed in this way can then be used to generate corresponding values of delta mean S0, delta mean V0, and delta mean C0P of association, which for similar complexes correlate linearly with mean S0, mean V0 and mean C0P, respectively, of the constituent cations and ligands at 25 degrees C and 1 bar. Generalizing these correlations and combining them with the equations of state permits prediction of the temperature and pressure dependence of log K and other thermodynamic properties of a large number of aqueous metal complexes. As a consequence, it is possible to retrieve values of log K at 25 degrees C and 1 bar from the results of hydrothermal experiments at higher temperatures and pressures or to predict values of log K at hydrothermal conditions when no experimental data are available at temperatures and pressures above 25 degrees C and 1 bar. Such predictions can be made for temperatures and pressures from 0 degrees C and 1 bar to 1000 degrees C and 5000 bars.
The delta 13C of suspended particulate organic matter (SPOM) in surface waters increased from -22.9 to -18.1% during April 25-May 31, 1989 at the JGOFS North Atlantic Bloom Experiment Site (NABE Site; 47 degrees N, 20 degrees W). During the same period, nearly parallel increases in sinking POM delta 13C were also found, although these values were usually lower than those of the corresponding SPOM. Consistent with the hypothesis that plankton delta 13C and [CO2 (aq)] are inversely related, the increases in both sinking and suspended POM delta 13C were highly negatively correlated with mixed-layer [CO2(aq)] that generally decreased from 13.2-10.1 micromoles/kg during the five weeks. The change in SPOM delta 13C per change in [CO2(aq)], however, appears to be somewhat greater than that expected from previous, though less direct, ocean and laboratory evidence. By adapting a model of plant delta 13C by FARQUHAR et al. (1982), it is shown that under a constant phytoplankton demand for CO2 an inverse, nonlinear SPOM delta 13C response to ambient [CO2(aq)] is expected. Such trends are unlike the negative linear relationships indicated by data from the NABE Site and or from Southern Hemisphere waters. Such differences between predicted and observed SPOM delta 13C vs. [CO2(aq)] trends and among observed relationships can be reconciled, however, if biological CO2 demand is allowed to vary. This has significant implications for the use of the delta 13C of plankton (or their organic subfractions or sedimentary remains) as a proxy for past or present ocean CO2 concentrations and biological productivity.
13C NMR spectra have been obtained of the insoluble carbon residues resulting from HF-digestion of three carbonaceous chondrites, Orgueil (C1), Murchison (CM2), and Allende (CV3). Spectra obtained using the cross polarization magic-angle spinning technique show two major features attributable respectively to carbon in aliphatic/olefinic structures. The spectrum obtained from the Allende sample was weak, presumably as a consequence of its low hydrogen content. Single pulse excitation spectra, which do not depend on 1H-13C polarization transfer for signal enhancement were also obtained. These spectra, which may be more representative of the total carbon in the meteorite samples, indicate a greater content of carbon in aromatic/olefinic structures. These results suggest that extensive polycyclic aromatic sheets are important structural features of the insoluble carbon of all three meteorites. The Orgueil and Murchison materials contain additional hydrogenated aromatic/olefinic and aliphatic groups.
Amino acids were subjected to shock impact over a pressure range of 3.5 to 32 GPa both within and without meteoritic mineral matrices. The extent of amino acid destruction, racemization, and conversion to secondary amino acids was examined. Abundances of parent compounds decreased by a factor of 10(3) over this pressure range. Racemization also occurred, but some residual optical activity remained in the amino acids surviving shocks up to 32 GPa. Secondary amino acids formed in the high peak pressure range; those identified were beta-alanine, glycine, alanine, gamma-aminobutyric acid, and beta-aminoisobutyric acid. At 30 GPa, the abundances of these daughter compounds exceeded those of the remaining initial amino acids. As the concomitant effects of high mechanical stress and temperature accompanying shocks cannot be separated in this work, their relative contribution to the observed transformations cannot be estimated. The survival of amino acids in shock experiments suggests that, after formation or emplacement of amino acids in carbonaceous chondrite parent bodies, these objects never experienced impact velocities greater than 5 km/s, which suffices to generate 30 GPa for typical silicate/silicate impacts. These results also provide guidelines for choosing appropriate capture media for interplanetary dust particles on Earth-orbiting platforms.
Complete budgets for carbon and oxygen have been constructed for cyanobacterial mats dominated by Microcoleus chthonoplastes from the evaporating ponds of a salt works located in Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Included in the budget are measured rates of O2 production, sulfate reduction, and elemental exchange across the mat/brine interface, day and night, at various temperatures and times of the year. We infer from this data the various sinks for O2, as well as the sources of carbon for primary production. To summarize, although seasonal variability exists, a major percentage of the O2 produced during the day did not diffuse out of the mat but was used within the mat to oxidize both organic carbon and the sulfide produced by sulfate reduction. At night, most of the O2 that diffused into the mat was used to oxidize sulfide, with O2 respiration of minor importance. During the day, the internal mat processes of sulfate reduction and O2 respiration generated as much or more inorganic carbon (DIC) for primary production as diffusion into the mat. Also, oxygenic photosynthesis was the most important process of carbon fixation, although anoxygenic photosynthesis may have been important at low light levels during some times of the year. At night, the DIC lost from the mat was mostly from sulfate reduction. Elemental fluxes across the mat/brine interface indicated that carbon with an oxidation state of greater than zero was taken up by the mat during the day and liberated from the mat at night. Overall, carbon with an average oxidation state of near zero accumulated in the mat. Both carbon fixation and carbon oxidation rates varied with temperature by a similar amount. These mats are thus closely coupled systems where rapid rates of photosynthesis both require and fuel rapid rates of heterotrophic carbon oxidation.
In measurements of the noble gases in additional samples of diamonds from the Argyle and Ellendale lamproites in Western Australia we have failed to encounter any neon-rich stones such as showed solar-like isotopic compositions in earlier work. No neon was detected above the relatively high blank levels in our glass apparatus. White and brown diamonds showed no differences in noble gas content, nor did samples segregated by the color of long-wave UF fluorescence. The rare gas patterns in the 1.2 Ga Argyle pipe are largely consistent with implanted 3He, 4He, and fissiogenic Xe from U/Th in the matrix rock in which the diamonds have been stored for so long. These implanted species are absent in diamonds from the much younger (approximately 20 Ma) Ellendale pipe. We give implantation formulae for several models of inhomogeneously distributed U/Th. Differences in 3He content between pipe and alluvial Argyle samples are consistent with expected cosmogenic production in the latter. An expanded data base for helium and carbon isotopic data on the same samples supports a negative [4He]-delta 13C correlation seen earlier in work from our group, but if the Argyle samples, which contain light carbon, are corrected for implanted 4He, the correlation is considerably weakened. We no longer see an earlier 3He/4He-delta 13C correlation.
Previous isotopic analyses of the total amino acids of the Murchison meteorite showed these compounds to be substantially enriched in 2H, 13C, and 15N relative to terrestrial organic matter. These analyses have been repeated (2H, 13C) with inclusion of an ultrafiltration step to exclude the possibility that a fine particulate contaminant carried the isotopic excesses observed in the previous work. In addition, the meteorite amino acids were chromatographically separated to rule out the possibility that the isotopic enrichment of the meteorite extract could reside in basic compounds other than amino acids. The results indicate that the Murchison amino acids are truly isotopically unusual, that the isotopic excesses reside in at least several different amino acids, and that the isotopic contents of some of these amino acids reach values of about +40% (delta 13C) and +2500% (delta D). If it is assumed that the high deuterium content of the meteorite alpha-amino acids is a result of the synthesis of their molecular precursors by low temperature ion-molecule reactions in an interstellar cloud, their formation by aqueous phase Strecker reactions in the parent body is consistent with their general characteristics and with known parent body processes.
Volatile ratios (primarily of H2O and CO2) in individual silicate melt (glass) inclusions in minerals have been analyzed using laser volatilization and mass spectrometry. A Nd-glass laser was used to produce 50-micrometer diameter pits in silicate melt inclusions. Released volatiles were analyzed directly with a computer-controlled quadrupole mass spectrometer. The detection limits for CO2 and H2O were on the order of 3 x 10(-14) and 3 x 10(-13) moles, respectively. The reproducibility for CO2/H2O was better than +/- 9%. The total range of volatile ratios from vitreous silicate glass inclusions contained in a suite of Galapagos lavas were: 0.018 to 1.193 for CO2/H2O; 0.002 to 0.758 for CO/H2O; 0 to 0.454 for CH4/H2O; and 0 to 0.432 for Ar/H2O. The mean CO2/H2O from the propagating rift (0.245 +/- 0.068) silicate glass inclusions is significantly lower than that of the actively failing rift (0.641 +/- 0.241); this difference probably reflects different degrees of degassing during magmatic histories for the two regions. Relatively undifferentiated failing rift magmas must have relatively short crustal residence times prior to eruption and, therefore, have not undergone significant degassing of CO2, as would appear to be the case for the more highly fractionated propagating rift magmas. The laser-mass spectrometric system described herein has the ability to act as a point-source probing device that can differentiate between the various volatile sites in minerals and rocks (as well as synthetic materials) on a micrometer scale.
The concentrations of Ni, Cu, Zn, Ga, Ge, and Se in five, fine-grained chondrule rims in the highly unequilibrated CO3 chondrite ALH A77307 (3.0) have been determined for the first time by synchrotron X-ray fluorescence (SXRF) microprobe at Brookhaven National Laboratory. These elements are especially useful for tracing the role of condensation and evaporation processes which occurred at moderate temperatures in the solar nebula. Understanding the distribution of moderately volatile elements between matrix and chondrules is extremely important for evaluating the different models for the volatile depletions in chondritic meteorites. The data show that the trace element chemistry of rims on different chondrules is remarkably similar, consistent with data obtained for the major and minor elements by electron microprobe. These results support the idea that rims are not genetically related to individual chondrules, but all sampled the same reservoir of homogeneously mixed dust. Of the trace elements analyzed, Zn and Ga show depletions relative to CI chondrite values, but in comparison with bulk CO chondrites all the elements are enriched by approximately 1.5 to 3.5 x CO. The abundance patterns for moderately volatile elements in ALH A77307 chondrule rims closely mimic those observed in the bulk chondrite, indicating that matrix is the major reservoir for these elements. The close matching of the patterns for the volatile depleted bulk chondrite and enriched matrix is especially striking for Na, which is anomalously depleted in ALH A77307 in comparison with average CO chondrite abundances. The depletion in Na is probably attributable to the effects of leaching in Antarctica. With the exception of Na, the volatile elements show a relatively smooth decrease in abundance as a function of condensation temperature, indicating that their behavior is largely controlled by their volatility.
Analyses of 227 rocks from fifty localities throughout the world showed that mantle derived rocks such as tectonized peridotites in ophiolite sequences (tectonites) arid peridotite xenoliths in alkali basalts contain heavier hydrocarbons (n-alkanes), whereas igneous rocks produced by magmas such as gabbro arid granite lack them. The occurrence of hydrocarbons indicates that they were not derived either from laboratory contamination or from held contamination; these compounds found in the mantle-derived rocks are called here "mantle hydrocarbons." The existence of hydrocarbons correlates with petrogenesis. For example, peridotite cumulates produced by magmatic differentiation lack hydrocarbons whereas peridotite xenoliths derived from the mantle contain them. Gas chromatographic-mass spectrometric records of the mantle hydrocarbons resemble those of aliphatics in meteorites and in petroleum. Features of the hydrocarbons are that (a) the mantle hydrocarbons reside mainly along grain boundaries and in fluid inclusions of minerals; (b) heavier isoprenoids such as pristane and phytane are present; and (c) delta 13C of the mantle hydrocarbons is uniform (about -27%). Possible origins for the mantle hydrocarbons are as follows. (1) They were in organically synthesized by Fischer-Tropsch type reaction in the mantle. (2) They were delivered by meteorites and comets to the early Earth. (3) They were recycled by subduction. The mantle hydrocarbons in the cases of (1) and (2) are abiogenic and those in (3) are mainly biogenic. It appears that hydrocarbons may survive high pressures and temperatures in the mantle, but they are decomposed into lighter hydrocarbon gases such as CH4 at lower pressures when magmas intrude into the crust; consequently, peridotite cumulates do not contain heavier hydrocarbons but possess hydrocarbon gases up to C4H10.
Steranes and triterpanes generated from pyrolysis of immature Monterey Formation kerogen in the presence and absence of calcite, illite and montmorillonite reveal results that are both consistent and divergent with published data that reflect the use of these biological markers as maturation indicators. The extent of isomerization of biomarkers generated from pyrolysis of kerogen at 300°C for 2 hours, at C-20 in 14α(H),17α(H)-steranes, at C-22 in 17α(H),21β(H)-hopanes and of 17β(H),21β(H)-hopanes correspond to early diagenetic stages in rock extracts from sedimentary basins. Isomerization increases with heating time and, after 1000 hours, attains values which correspond to the catagenetic stage in sedimentary basins, or equivalent to that of mature oil. Stepwise pyrolysis of the kerogen indicates faster isomerization rates for steranes and triterpanes in the bitumen than for those retained in the kerogen structure, confirming earlier studies.
We have studied nineteen anhydrous chondritic interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) using analytical electron microscopy. We have determined a method for quantitative light element EDX analysis of small particles and have applied these techniques to a group of IDPs. Our results show that some IDPs have significantly higher bulk carbon abundances than do carbonaceous chondrites. We have also identified a relationship between carbon abundance and silicate mineralogy in our set of anhydrous IDPs. In general, these particles are dominated by pyroxene, olivine, or a subequal mixture of olivine and pyroxene. The pyroxene-dominated IDPs have a higher carbon abundance than those dominated by olivines. Members of the mixed mineralogy IDPs can be grouped with either the pyroxene- or olivine-dominated particles based on their carbon abundance. The high carbon, pyroxene-dominated particles have primitive mineralogies and bulk compositions which show strong similarities to cometary dust particles. We believe that the lower carbon, olivine-dominated IDPs are probably derived from asteroids. Based on carbon abundances, the mixed-mineralogy group represents particles derived from either comets or asteroids. We believe that the high carbon, pyroxene-rich anhydrous IDPs are the best candidates for cometary dust.
We report detailed analyses on the concentrations of the noble metals Pd, Os, Ir, Pt, and Au in an early Archean spherule bed (S4) of probable impact origin from the lower Fig Tree Group, Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa. Compared to other sedimentary deposits of known or suspected impact origin, some noble metals are present in exceptionally high concentrations. Noble metal abundances are fractionated relative to abundances in chondrites with ratios of Os/Ir, Pt/Ir, Pd/Ir, and Au/Ir at only 80, 80, 41, and 2% of these values in CI chondrites. Although an extraterrestrial source is favored for the noble metal enrichment, the most plausible cause of the fractionation is by regional hydrothermal/metasomatic alteration.
Whole-rock samples of 25 carbonaceous chondrites were analysed for contents of C, H and N and delta 13C, delta D and delta 15N. Inhomogeneous distribution of these isotopes within individual meteorites is pronounced in several cases. Few systematic intermeteorite trends were observed; N data are suggestive of isotopic inhomogeneity in the early solar system. Several chondrites revealed unusual compositions which would repay further, more detailed study. The data are also useful for classification of carbonaceous chondrites; N abundance and isotopic compositions can differentiate existing taxonomic groups with close to 100% reliability; Al Rais and Renazzo clearly constitute a discrete "grouplet"' and there are hints that both CI and CM groups may each be divisible into two subgroups.
Deuterium-enriched amino acids occur in the Murchison carbonaceous chrondrite. This meteorite underwent a period of aqueous alteration with isotopically light water. With the objective of setting limits on the conditions of aqueous alteration, the exchange of the carbon-bonded hydrogen atoms of amino acids with D2O has been studied from 295 to 380 K as a function of time and meteorite/heavy water ratio. The amount of Murchison or Allende dust present has a significant effect on the rate and amount of hydrogen-deuterium exchange observed. At elevated temperatures, the alpha-hydrogens of all the amino acids studied were found to exchange with deuterium. In glycine and aspartic acid, this process resulted in total exchange of the carbon-bonded hydrogen. A completely deuterated isotopomer of alanine was produced in significant quantities only when the rock/water ratio was greater than 0.5. No exchange of carbon-bonded hydrogens was observed in the case of amino acids which do not possess an alpha-hydrogen atom. The rates of H/D exchange for amino acids observed here did not correspond to deuterium enrichment of the amino acids in the Murchison meteorite. These results suggest that H/D exchange with water had a negligible effect on the observed deuterium enrichment of amino acids found in Murchison and that the temperature at which the amino acids were exposed to liquid water was close to 273 K.
The combined volatile bases (ammonia, aliphatic amines, and possibly other bases), ammonia, amino acids, and polar hydrocarbons were prepared from the Murchison meteorite for isotopic analyses. The volatile bases were obtained by cryogenic transfer after acid-hydrolysis of a hot-water extract and analyzed by combined gas chromatography-mass spectrometry of pentafluoropropionyl derivatives. The aliphatic amines present in this preparation comprise a mixture that includes both primary and secondary isomers through C_5 at a total concentration of ≥ 100 nmoles g^(−1). As commonly observed for meteoritic organic compounds, almost all isomers through C_5 are present, and the concentrations within homologous series decrease with increasing chain length. Ammonia was chromatographically separated from the other volatile bases and found at a concentration of 1.1–1.3 μmol g^(−1) meteorite. The ammonia analyzed includes contributions from ammonium salts and the hydrolysis of extractable organic compounds, e.g., carboxamides.
Stable isotope analyses showed the volatile bases to be substantially enriched in the heavier isotopes, relative to comparable terrestrial compounds (δD ≤ + 1221%.; δ^(13)C = + 22%.; δ(15)N = + 93%.). Ammonia, per se, was found to have a somewhat lower δ^(15)N value (+69%.) than the total volatile bases; consequently, a higher δ^(15)N (>93%.) can be inferred for the other bases, which include the amines. Solvent-extractable polar hydrocarbons obtained separately were found to be enriched in ^(15)N (δ^(15)N = + 104%.). Total amino acids, prepared from a hydrolyzed hot-water extract by cation exchange chromatography, gave a δ^(15)N of + 94%., a value in good agreement with that obtained previously. Nitrogen isotopic data are also given for amino acid fractions separated chromatographically. The δ^(15)N values of the Murchison soluble organic compounds analyzed to date fall within a rather narrow range (δ^(15)N = + 94 ± 8%.), an observation consistent with their formation, or formation of their precursors, by interstellar chemistry.
Using a sensitive high performance liquid chromatography technique, we have analyzed both the hot water extract and the acid hydrolyzed hot water extract of lunar soil collected during the Apollo 17 mission. Both free amino acids and those derived from acid labile precursors are present at a level of roughly 15 ppb. Based on the D/L amino acid ratios, the free alanine and aspartic acid observed in the hot water extract can be entirely attributed to terrestrial biogenic contamination. However, in the acid labile fraction, precursors which yield amino acids are apparently present in the lunar soil. The amino acid distribution suggests that the precursor is probably solar wind implanted HCN. We have evaluated our results with regard to the meteoritic input of intact organic compounds to the moon based on an upper limit of < or = 0.3 ppb for alpha-aminoisobutyric acid, a non-protein amino acid which does not generally occur in terrestrial organisms and which is not a major amino acid produced from HCN, but which is a predominant amino acid in many carbonaceous chondrites. We find that the survival of exogenous organic compounds during lunar impact is < or = 0.8%. This result represents an example of minimum organic impact survivability. This is an important first step toward a better understanding of similar processes on Earth and on Mars, and their possible contribution to the budget of prebiotic organic compounds on the primitive Earth.
The monocarboxylic acids and hydrocarbons of the Murchison meteorite (CM2) were isolated for isotopic analysis. The nonvolatile hydrocarbons were analyzed as crude methanol and benzene-methanol extracts and also after separation by silica gel chromatography into predominantly aliphatic, aromatic, and polar hydrocarbon fractions. The volatile hydrocarbons were obtained after progressive decomposition of the meteorite matrix by freeze-thaw, hot water, and acid treatment. Molecular analyses of the aromatic hydrocarbons showed them to comprise a complex suite of compounds in which pyrene, fluoranthene, phenanthrene, and acenaphthene were the most abundant components, a result similar to earlier analyses. The polar hydrocarbons also comprise a very complex mixture in which aromatic ketones, nitrogen, and sulfur heterocycles were identified. Both delta 13C and delta D values were obtained for all preparations. The monocarboxylic acids, aliphatic, aromatic, and polar hydrocarbons, and the indigenous volatile hydrocarbons were found to be D-rich with delta D values ranging from about +100 to +1000. The delta 13C values ranged overall from -13 to +17. The deuterium enrichment observed in these compounds is suggestive of a relationship to interstellar organic compounds. In two separate analyses, the delta D values of the nonvolatile hydrocarbons were observed to increase in the following order: aliphatic < aromatic < polar. This finding is consistent with an early solar system or parent body conversion of aromatic to aliphatic compounds as well as the earlier suggestion of pyrolytic formation of aromatic from aliphatic compounds.
Analyses of fractionated aqueous extracts of the Murchison meteorite by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry after silylation with N-methyl-N (tert-butyldimethylsilyl) trifluoroacetamide have revealed an extensive series of linear and cyclic aliphatic amides. These include monocarboxylic acid amides, dicarboxylic acid monoamides, hydroxy acid amides, lactams, carboxy lactams, lactims, N-acetyl amino acids, and substituted hydantoins. Numerous isomers and homologues through at least C8 were observed in all cases, except for the N-acetyl amino acids and hydantoins. Carboxy lactams, lactams, hydantoins, and N-acetyl amino acids are converted to amino acids by acid hydrolysis, thus, these compounds qualitatively account for the earlier observation of acid-labile amino acid precursors in meteoritic extracts. Laboratory studies of the spontaneous decomposition of N-carbamyl-alpha-amino acids and their dehydration products, the 5-substituted hydantoins, have led to the recognition of a series of aqueous phase reactions by which amino acids and cyanic acid/cyanate ion in the primitive parent body might have given rise to several of the observed classes of amides, as well as to monocarboxylic acids, dicarboxylic acids, and hydroxy acids. A previously undescribed reaction of 5-substituted hydantoins with cyanic acid/cyanate ion to give carboxamides of the 5-substituent groups was observed in the course of these studies. The presence of an extensive suite of amides in a CM chondrite appears to be consistent with the interstellar-parent body formation hypothesis for the organic compounds of these meteorites. The presence of carboxy lactams and lactams along with free amino acids suggests the possibility of further chemical evolution of meteorite amino acids by thermal polymerization. The cyclic amides, given their potential for hydrogen-bonded pair formation, might be considered candidate bases for a primitive sequence coding system.
All ten of the possible five-carbon acyclic primary beta-, gamma-, and delta-amino alkanoic acids (amino position isomers of the valines) have been positively identified in hot-water extracts of the Murchison meteorite using combined gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and ion exchange chromatography. With the exception of delta-aminovaleric acid, none of these amino acids has been previously reported to occur in meteorites or in any other natural material. The gamma-amino acids (4-aminopentanoic acid, 4-amino-2-methlybutanoic acid, and 4-amino-3-methylbutanoic acid) are present at higher concentrations (about 5 nmol g-1)than are the beta-amino isomers (3-aminopentanoic acid, 3-amino-2-methylbutanoic acid, allo-3-amino-2-methylbutanoic acid, 3-amino-3-methylbutanoic acid, 3-amino-2-ethylpropanoic acid, and 3-amino-2,2-dimethylpropanoic acid) which are present at concentrations of 1-2 nmol g-1. These amino acids are less abundant in the meteorite than either the corresponding alpha-amino acids or the four-carbon homologues. Thirty-six amino acids have now been positively identified in the Murchison meteorite, 17 of which are apparently unique to carbonaceous chondrites. The fact that the meteorite contains all possible five-carbon acyclic primary alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-amino alkanoic acids is consistent with a synthetic process involving random combination of single-carbon precursors.
The recent review by Marshall (1994) of the production of amino acids from the interstellar components, formaldehyde and ammonia, is placed in the larger context of the origin of life. Thermal energy, being ubiquitous in the Earth, emerges as the sole necessary form of energy. To appreciate the overview of the natural evolutionary sequence it is necessary to recognize stepwiseness in evolution, a principle that has however been often ignored. Since self organization of thermal protein to cells is instantaneous, but only one step in a geochemical ladder, individual steps may be regarded as instantaneous, while the sequence requires measurable time. Two steps indicated are extrusion of a hot, dry organic magma of amino acids --> peptides into an aqueous environment in which occurs a second step of self organization. In this paper, spinoffs of the defensible theory for the origin of life have been briefly reviewed as a fundamental consequence of nonrandom thermal copolymerization of amino acids.
The dissolution kinetics of a simulated lunar glass were examined at pH 3, 5, and 7. Additionally, the pH 7 experiments were conducted in the presence of citric and oxalic acid at concentrations of 2 and 20 mM. The organic acids were buffered at pH 7 to examine the effect of each molecule in their dissociated form. At pH 3, 5, and 7, the dissolution of the synthetic lunar glass was observed to proceed via a two-stage process. The first stage involved the parabolic release of Ca, Mg, Al, and Fe, and the linear release of Si. Dissolution was incongruent, creating a leached layer rich in Si and Ti which was verified by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). During the second stage the release of Ca, Mg, Al, and Fe was linear. A coupled diffusion/surface dissolution model was proposed for dissolution of the simulated lunar glass at pH 3, 5, and 7. During the first stage the initial release of mobile cations (i.e., Ca, Mg, Al, Fe) was limited by diffusion through the surface leached layer of the glass (parabolic release), while Si release was controlled by the hydrolysis of the Si-O-Al bonds at the glass surface (linear release). As dissolution continued, the mobile cations diffused from greater depths within the glass surface. A steady-state was then reached where the diffusion rate across the increased path lengths equalled the Si release rate from the surface. In the presence of the organic acids, the dissolution of the synthetic lunar glass proceeded by a one stage process. The release of Ca, Mg, Al, and Fe followed a parabolic relationship, while the release of Si was linear. The relative reactivity of the organic acids used in the experiments was citrate > oxalate. A thinner leached layer rich in Si/Ti, as compared to the pH experiments, was observed using TEM. Rate data suggest that the chemisorption of the organic anion to the surface silanol groups was responsible for enhanced dissolution in the presence of the organic acids. It is proposed that the increased rate of Si release is responsible for the one stage parabolic release of mobile cations and the relatively thin leached layer compared to experiments at pH 3 and 5.
Deuterium-enriched amino acids occur in the Murchison carbonaceous chondrite. Synthesis from D-enriched interstellar precursors by Strecker reactions during aqueous alteration of the parent body has been proposed. To test this hypothesis, we have measured the retention of deuterium in amino acids produced from HCN, NH3, and formaldehyde-D2, acetaldehyde-D4, and acetone-D6 in H2O. The isotopic label is 50% to 98% retained, with variations in retentivity depending on the amino acid and the reaction conditions. If amino acids, once formed on the parent body by the Strecker synthesis, lose no deuterium by subsequent exchange with water or H-bearing minerals, then the observed deuterium isotopic composition of Murchison amino acids represents as much as 50% or more of the enrichments inherited from their interstellar precursors. Imino diacids are prominent side products of the Strecker synthesis which have not been reported in carbonaceous chondrites. Under the conditions of the Strecker reaction using deuterium labeled aldehydes and ketones, unlabeled amino acids are also formed by an HCN polymerization route indicating multiple pathways for the synthesis of amino acids in meteorites.
All of the eighteen possible seven-carbon acyclic primary alpha-amino alkanoic acids have been positively identified in a hot-water extract of the Murchison meteorite by the combined use of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, ion exchange chromatography and reversed-phase chromatography. None of these amino acids has previously been found in meteorites or in any other natural material. They range in concentration from < or = 0.5 to 5.3 nmol g-1. Configuration assignments were made for 2-amino-3,4-dimethylpentanoic acid and allo-2-amino-3,4-dimethylpenatonoic acid and the diasteromer ratio was determined. Fifty-five amino acids have now been positively identified in the Murchison meteorite, 36 of which are unknown in terrestrial materials. This unique suite of amino acids is characterized by the occurrence of all structural isomers within the two major classes of amino acids represented, by the predominance of branched chain isomers, and by an exponential decline in amount with increasing carbon chain length within homologous series. These characteristics of the Murchison amino acids are suggestive of synthesis before incorporation into a parent body.
Homologous series of alkyl phosphonic acids and alkyl sulfonic acids, along with inorganic orthophosphate and sulfate, have been identified in water extracts of the Murchison meteorite after conversion to their t-butyl dimethylsilyl (tBDMS) derivatives. The methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butyl compounds have been observed in both series. Five of the eight possible alkyl phosphonic acids and seven of the eight possible alkyl sulfonic acids through C4 have been identified. Abundances decrease with increasing carbon number as observed of other homologous series indigenous to Murchison. Concentrations range downward from approximately 380 nmol/gram in alkyl sulfonic acid series, and from 9 nmol/gram in the alkyl phosphonic acid series. Inorganic phosphate is present at about 25 micromoles/gram.
Small (1.0-9.2%) L-enantiomer excesses were found in six alpha-methyl-alpha-amino alkanoic acids from the Murchison (2.8-9.2%) and Murray (1.0-6.0%) carbonaceous chondrites by gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy of their N-trifluoroacetyl or N-pentafluoropropyl isopropyl esters. These amino acids [2-amino-2,3-dimethylpentanoic acid (both diastereomers), isovaline, alpha-methyl norvaline, alpha-methyl valine, and alpha-methyl norleucine] are either unknown or rare in the terrestrial biosphere. Enantiomeric excesses were either not observed in the four alpha-H-alpha-amino alkanoic acids analyzed (alpha-amino-n-butyric acid, norvaline, alanine, and valine) or were attributed to terrestrial contamination. The substantial excess of L-alanine reported by others was not found in the alanine in fractionated extracts of either meteorite. The enantiomeric excesses reported for the alpha-methyl amino acids may be the result of partial photoresolution of racemic mixtures caused by ultraviolet circularly polarized light in the presolar cloud. The alpha-methyl-alpha-amino alkanoic acids could have been significant in the origin of terrestrial homochirality given their resistance to racemization and the possibility for amplification of their enantiomeric excesses suggested by the strong tendency of their polymers to form chiral secondary structure.
The hydroxymonocarboxylic acids, dicarboxylic acids, and hydroxydicarboxylic acids of the Murchison meteorite were analyzed as their tert-butyldimethylsilyl derivatives using combined gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The hydroxydicarboxylic acids have not been found previously in meteorites. Each class of compounds is numerous with carbon chains up to C8 or C9 and many, if not all, chain and substitution position isomers represented at each carbon number. The alpha-hydroxycarboxylic acids and alpha-hydroxydicarboxylic acids correspond structurally to many of the known meteoritic alpha-aminocarboxylic acids and alpha-aminodicarboxylic acids, a fact that supports the proposal that a Strecker synthesis was involved in the formation of both classes of compounds. Isotopic analyses show these acids to be D-rich relative to terrestrial organic compounds as expected; however, the hydroxy acids appear to be isotopically lighter than the amino acids with respect to both carbon and hydrogen. The latter finding would not be expected if both classes of compounds came exclusively from common precursors as would have been the case for a Strecker synthesis.
Significant amounts (up to 2% of organic geopolymers) of low molecular weight (LMW) dicarboxylic acids (C2-C10) have been detected during thermal alteration (270 degrees C, 2 h) of kerogens and humic acids isolated from young or ancient lithified sediments. Their distribution is characterized by predominance of oxalic acid followed by succinic, fumaric and methylsuccinic acids. These acids are probably released by the breakdown of macromolecular structures, which have incorporated biogenic organic compounds, including diacids, during early diagenesis in sediments. Because of their reactivity, LMW diacids may play the following geochemically important roles under natural conditions: (1) the diacids dissolve carbonates and clay minerals to increase porosity and permeability, which enhances migration of oils and gas generated from catagenesis of kerogen dispersed in shale, and (2) the diacids may form organo-metal complexes, which are important for mobilization, transport and accumulation of trace metals in sedimentary basins.
The Antarctic shergottite EETA79001 is believed to be an impact-ejected fragment of the planet Mars. Samples of the carbonate (white druse) and the basaltic (lithology A) components from this meteorite have been found to contain amino acids at a level of approximately 1 ppm and 0.4 ppm, respectively. The detected amino acids consist almost exclusively of the L-enantiomers of the amino acids commonly found in proteins, and are thus terrestrial contaminants. There is no indication of the presence of alpha-aminoisobutyric acid, one of the most abundant amino acids in several carbonaceous chondrites. The relative abundances of amino acids in the druse material resemble those in Antarctic ice, suggesting that the source of the amino acids may be ice meltwater. The level of amino acids in EETA79001 druse is not by itself sufficient to account for the 600-700 ppm of volatile C reported in druse samples and suggested to be from endogenous martian organic material. However, estimates of total terrestrial organic C present in the druse material based on our amino acid analyses and the organic C content of polar ice can account for most of the reported putative organic C in EETA79001 druse.
Since the discovery of hyperthermophilic microbial activity in hydrothermal fluids recovered from "smoker" vents on the East Pacific Rise, the widely accepted upper temperature limit for life (based on pure culture data) has risen from below the boiling point of water at atmospheric pressure to approximately 115 degrees C. Many microbiologists seem willing to speculate that the maximum may be closer to 150 degrees C. We have postulated not only higher temperatures than these (under deep-sea hydrostatic pressures), but also the existence of a biosphere subsurface to accessible seafloor vents. New geochemical information from the Endeavour Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge indicative of subsurface organic material caused us to re-examine both the literature on hyperthermophilic microorganisms cultured from deep-sea smoker environments and recent results of microbial sampling efforts at actively discharging smokers on the Endeavour Segment. Here we offer the case for a subsurface biosphere based on an interdisciplinary view of microbial and geochemical analyses of Endeavour smoker fluids, a case in keeping with rapidly evolving geophysical understanding of organic stability under deep-sea hydrothermal conditions.
A series of pyrolysis experiments, utilizing two different immature oil-prone kerogens ("type I": Green River Formation kerogen; "Type II": Monterey Formation kerogen) mixed with common sedimentary minerals (calcite, illite, or Na-montmorillonite), was conducted to study the effects of minerals on the generation of n-alkanes, acyclic isoprenoids, and alkenes during laboratory-simulated catagenesis of kerogen. The influence of clay minerals on the aliphatic hydrocarbons is critically dependent on the water concentration during laboratory thermal maturation. Under extremely low contents of water (i.e., dry pyrolysis, where only pyrolysate water is present), C12(+) -range n-alkanes and acyclic isoprenoids are mostly destroyed by montmorillonite but undergo only minor alteration with illite. Both clay minerals significantly reduce alkene formation during dry pyrolysis. Under hydrous conditions (mineral/water = 2:1), the effects of the clay minerals are substantially reduced. In addition, the dry pyrolysis experiments show that illite and montmorillonite preferentially retain large amounts of the polar constituents of bitumen, but not n-alkanes or acyclic isoprenoids. Therefore, bitumen fractionation according to polarity differences occurs in the presence of these clay minerals. By this process, n-alkanes and acyclic isoprenoids are concentrated in the bitumen fraction that is not strongly adsorbed on the clay matrices. The extent of these concentrations effects is greatly diminished during hydrous pyrolysis. In contrast, calcite has no significant influence on the thermal evolution of the hydrocarbons. In addition, calcite is incapable of retaining bitumen. Therefore, the fractionation of n-alkanes or acyclic isoprenoids relative to the polar constituents of bitumen is insignificant in the presence of calcite.
Copper isotopes may prove to be a useful tool for investigating bacteria-metal interactions recorded in natural waters, soils, and rocks. However, experimental data which attempt to constrain Cu isotope fractionation in biologic systems are limited and unclear. In this study, we utilized Cu isotopes (δ(65)Cu) to investigate Cu-bacteria interactions, including surface adsorption and intracellular incorporation. Experiments were conducted with individual representative species of Gram-positive (Bacillus subtilis) and Gram-negative (Escherichia coli) bacteria, as well as with wild-type consortia of microorganisms from several natural environments. Ph-dependent adsorption experiments were conducted with live and dead cells over the pH range 2.5-6. Surface adsorption experiments of Cu onto live bacterial cells resulted in apparent separation factors (Δ(65)Cu(solution-solid) = δ(65)Cu(solution) - δ(65)Cu(solid)) ranging from +0.3‰ to +1.4‰ for B. subtilis and +0.2‰ to +2.6‰ for E. coli. However, because heat-killed bacterial cells did not exhibit this behavior, the preference of the lighter Cu isotope by the cells is probably not related to reversible surface adsorption, but instead is a metabolically-driven phenomenon. Adsorption experiments with heat-killed cells yielded apparent separation factors ranging from +0.3‰ to -0.69‰ which likely reflects fractionation from complexation with organic acid surface functional group sites. For intracellular incorporation experiments the lab strains and natural consortia preferentially incorporated the lighter Cu isotope with an apparent Δ(65)Cu(solution-solid) ranging from ~+1.0‰ to +4.4‰. Our results indicate that live bacterial cells preferentially sequester the lighter Cu isotope regardless of the experimental conditions. The fractionation mechanisms involved are likely related to active cellular transport and regulation, including the reduction of Cu(II) to Cu(I). Because similar intracellular Cu machinery is shared by fungi, plants, and higher organisms, the influence of biological processes on the δ(65)Cu of natural waters and soils is probably considerable.
We have examined a Hawaiian palagonitic tephra sample (PN-9) that has spectroscopic similarities to Martian bright regions using a number of analytical techniques, including Mossbauer and reflectance spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, instrumental neutron activation analysis, electron probe microanalysis, transmission electron microscopy, and dithionite-citrate-bicarbonate extraction. Chemically, PN-9 has a Hawaiitic composition with alkali (and presumably silica) loss resulting from leaching by meteoric water during palagonitization; no Ce anomaly is present in the REE pattern. Mineralogically, our results show that nanophase ferric oxide (np-Ox) particles (either nanophase hematite (np-Hm) or a mixture of ferrihydrite and np-Hm) are responsible for the distinctive ferric doublet and visible-wavelength ferric absorption edge observed in Mossbauer and reflectivity spectra, respectively, for this and other spectrally similar palagonitic samples. The np-Ox particles appear to be imbedded in a hydrated aluminosilicate matrix material; no evidence was found for phyllosilicates. Other iron-bearing phases observed are titanomagnetite, which accounts for the magnetic nature of the sample; olivine; pyroxene; and glass. By analogy, np-Ox is likely the primary pigmenting agent of the bright soils and dust of Mars.
Using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), we have analyzed magnetite (Fe_3O_4) crystals acid-extracted from carbonate globules in Martian meteorite ALH84001. We studied 594 magnetites from ALH84001 and grouped them into three populations on the basis of morphology: 389 were irregularly shaped, 164 were elongated prisms, and 41 were whisker-like.
As a possible terrestrial analog for the ALH84001 elongated prisms, we compared these magnetites with those produced by the terrestrial magnetotactic bacteria strain MV-1. By TEM again, we examined 206 magnetites recovered from strain MV-1 cells. Natural (Darwinian) selection in terrestrial magnetotactic bacteria appears to have resulted in the formation of intracellular magnetite crystals having the physical and chemical properties that optimize their magnetic moment. In this study, we describe six properties of magnetite produced by biologically controlled mechanisms (e.g., magnetotactic bacteria), properties that, collectively, are not observed in any known population of inorganic magnetites.
These criteria can be used to distinguish one of the modes of origin for magnetites from samples with complex or unknown histories. Of the ALH84001 magnetites that we have examined, the elongated prismatic magnetite particles (∼27% of the total) are indistinguishable from the MV-1 magnetites in five of these six characteristics observed for biogenically controlled mineralization of magnetite crystals.
Nanometer-sized magnetite crystals associated with carbonates in fracture zones within Martian meteorite ALH84001 have been examined using analytical transmission electron microscopy. Some of the crystals exhibit distinctive morphologies: filamentary rods and ribbon, and platelets. The rods and ribbons are elongated along the crystallographic  and  directions. Some of the rods contain microstructural defects indicating that they grew by spiral growth about screw dislocations. Platelets are flattened along the  and  directions. These unique morphologies and microstructures constrain the growth conditions of magnetite. The whiskers and platelets most likely formed in the temperature range 500-800 degrees C by direct condensation from a vapor or precipitation from a supercritical fluid, and their properties are inconsistent with a biogenic origin.
The indigenous organic compounds of carbonaceous chondrites have been difficult to characterize because of problems arising from terrestrial contamination. The fall of the Murchison meteorite (CM2) provided pristine samples which allowed the resolution of some prior ambiguities as, for example, in the case of the amino acids. However, the nature of the aliphatic hydrocarbons has remained unclear. Shortly after the Murchison fall, one laboratory found them to be mainly cycloalkanes; another found, in order of abundance, branched alkanes, olefins, and cycloalkanes; while a third reported predominantly n-alkanes followed by methyl alkanes and olefins. We have reinvestigated this question using benzene-methanol as the extraction solvent, silica-gel chromatography for fractionation of the extract, and GC-MS, and IR and NMR spectroscopic techniques for the analyses. When interior samples were obtained and the analyses carried out under conditions that minimized environmental contaminants, we have found the principal aliphatic components of the Murchison meteorite to be a structurally diverse suite of C15 to C30 branched alkyl-substituted mono-, di-, and tricyclic alkanes. Comparative analyses were carried out on the Murray (CM2), Allende (CV3), and New Concord (L6) chondrites that illustrate the nature of the contamination problem encountered with carbonaceous chondrites.
The carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions of seven of the most abundant alkylporphyrins from the Serpiano oil shale (marine, Triassic) were determined. For the C31 and C32 butanoporphyrins, values of delta 13CPDB and delta 15NAIR averaged -24.0% and -3.1%. In contrast, the C31 and C32 methylpropanoporphyrins, DPEP, and a C30 13-nor etioporphyrin had delta 13C and delta 15N values averaging -27.5 and -3.3%, respectively. Carbon and nitrogen isotopic values for kerogen averaged -30.8 and -0.9, whereas those for total extract averaged -31.6, and -4.0%. The butanoporphyrins apparently derive from a biological source different from that giving rise to the other porphyrins, their 13C enrichment not being related to carbon isotopic fractionation accompanying diagenetic reactions. The delta 15N values for all the porphyrins indicate that the depletion of 15N observed in the kerogen is of primary origin. Consistent with the very high abundance of hopanoids and methyl hopanoids in the aliphatic hydrocarbon fraction, it is suggested that cyanobacterial fixation of N2 may have been the main cause of 15N depletion.
Pyrolysis experiments were carried out on Monterey formation kerogen and bitumen and Green River formation kerogen (Type II and I, respectively), in the presence and absence of montmorillonite, illite and calcite at 200 and 300 degrees C for 2-2000 hours. The pyrolysis products were identified and quantified and the results of the measurements on the gas and condensate range are reported here. A significant catalytic effect was observed for the pyrolysis of kerogen with montmorillonite, whereas small or no effects were observed with illite and calcite, respectively. Catalytic activity was evident by the production of up to five times higher C1-C6 hydrocarbons for kerogen with montmorillonite than for kerogen alone, and by the dominance of branched hydrocarbons in the C4-C6 range (up to 90% of the total amount at any single carbon number). This latter effect in the presence of montmorillonite is attributed to cracking via a carbonium-ion [carbocation] intermediate which forms on the acidic sites of the day. No catalytic effect, however, was observed for generation of methane and C2 hydrocarbons which form by thermal cracking. The catalysis of montmorillonite was significantly greater during pyrolysis of bitumen than for kerogen, which may point to the importance of the early formed bitumen as an intermediate in the production of low molecular weight hydrocarbons. Catalysis by minerals was also observed for the production of carbon dioxide. These results stress the importance of the mineral matrix in determining the type and amount of gases and condensates forming from the associated organic matter under thermal stress. The literature contains examples of gas distribution in the geologic column which can be accounted for by selective mineral catalysis, mainly during early stages of organic matter maturation.
A petrographic, geochemical, and oxygen isotopic study of the Bali CV3 carbonaceous chondrite revealed that the meteorite has undergone extensive deformation and aqueous alteration on its parent body. Deformation textures are common and include flattened chondrules, a well-developed foliation, and the presence of distinctive (100) planar defects in olivine. The occurrence of alteration products associated with the planar defects indicates that the deformation features formed prior to the episode of aqueous alteration. The secondary minerals produced during the alteration event include well-crystallized Mg-rich saponite, framboidal magnetite, and Ca-phosphates. The alteration products are not homogeneously distributed throughout the meteorite, but occur in regions adjacent to relatively unaltered material, such as veins of altered material following the foliation. The alteration assemblage formed under oxidizing conditions at relatively low temperatures (<100 degrees C). Altered regions in Bali have higher Na, Ca, and P contents than unaltered regions which suggests that the fluid phase carried significant dissolved solids. Oxygen isotopic compositions for unaltered regions in Bali fall within the field for other CV3 whole-rocks, however, the oxygen isotopic compositions of the heavily altered material lie in the region for the CM and CR chondrites. The heavy-isotope enrichment of the altered regions in Bali suggest alteration conditions similar to those for the petrographic type-2 carbonaceous chondrites.
DNA depurination and amino acid racemization take place at similar rates in aqueous solution at neutral pH. This relationship suggests that amino acid racemization may be useful in accessing the extent of DNA chain breakage in ancient biological remains. To test this suggestion, we have investigated the amino acids in insects entombed in fossilized tree resins ranging in age from <100 years to 130 million years. The amino acids present in 40 to 130 million year old amber-entombed insects resemble those in a modern fly and are probably the most ancient, unaltered amino acids found so far on Earth. In comparison to other geochemical environments on the surface of the Earth, the amino acid racemization rate in amber insect inclusions is retarded by a factor of >10(4). These results suggest that in amber insect inclusions DNA depurination rates would also likely be retarded in comparison to aqueous solution measurements, and thus DNA fragments containing many hundreds of base pairs should be preserved. This conclusion is consistent with the reported successful retrieval of DNA sequences from amber-entombed organisms.
A study of literature reports of the concentrations of amino acids in extracts from the Murchison meteorite shows that many of the concentration ratios are constant. There are two possible interpretations of these ratios. One is that they are controlled by the pathways through which the amino acids formed, from which it follows that the amino acids are distributed in the same proportions throughout the meteorite. The other interpretation is that the ratios result from the analytical procedures used to extract the amino acids from the meteorite. These methods rely heavily on high-temperature (100°C) aqueous extraction and subsequent high-temperature acid hydrolysis. A correlation was observed in the present study between the relative concentrations of several amino acids in the meteorite extracts and their relative aqueous solubilities at 100°C (alanine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, norleucine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, and glycine). The extract solutions are dilute, and far from the saturation limits, but these correlations suggest that the sampling procedure affects directly the reported concentrations for these amino acids. Ratios of the concentration of serine to those of glycine are also constant but cannot be accounted for solely by relative solubilities, and, as suggested elsewhere, serine as well as phenylalanine and methionine may be terrestrial contaminants. Data for β-alanine, α-aminobutyric acid, proline, sarcosine, alloisoleucine, β-aminoisobutyric acid, β-aminobutyric acid, and threonine also show constant abundances relative to glycine, but lack of solubility data at extraction conditions prohibits evaluating the extent of possible sampling bias for these amino acids. If the extraction process does not bias the results, and all extractable amino acids are removed from meteorite samples, then the properties of amino acids which control both their solubilities and their concentrations in the meteorite need to be established. The possibility of sampling bias needs to be tested experimentally before concluding that extraction is complete, and that the constant relative abundances indicate that the relative concentrations of amino acids are homogeneous in the meteorite.
Over 500 Free Amino Acid (FAA) and corresponding Total Hydrolysed Amino Acid (THAA) analyses were completed from eight independently-dated, multi-century coral cores of massive Porites sp. colonies. This dataset allows us to re-evaluate the application of amino acid racemization (AAR) for dating late Holocene coral material, 20 years after Goodfriend et al. (GCA 56 (1992), 3847) first showed AAR had promise for developing chronologies in coral cores. This re-assessment incorporates recent method improvements, including measurement by RP-HPLC, new quality control approaches (e.g. sampling and sub-sampling protocols, statistically-based data screening criteria), and cleaning steps to isolate the intra-crystalline skeletal protein. We show that the removal of the extra-crystalline contaminants and matrix protein is the most critical step for reproducible results and recommend a protocol of bleaching samples in NaOCl for 48 h to maximise removal of open system proteins while minimising the induced racemization. We demonstrate that AAR follows closed system behaviour in the intra-crystalline fraction of the coral skeletal proteins. Our study is the first to assess the natural variability in intra-crystalline AAR between colonies, and we use coral cores taken from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, and Jarvis Island in the equatorial Pacific to explore variability associated with different environmental conditions and thermal histories. Chronologies were developed from THAA Asx D/L, Ala D/L, Glx D/L and FAA Asx D/L for each core and least squares Monte Carlo modelling applied in order to quantify uncertainty of AAR age determinations and assess the level of dating resolution possible over the last 5 centuries. AAR within colonies follow consistent stratigraphic aging. However, there are systematic differences in rates between the colonies, which would preclude direct comparison from one colony to another for accurate age estimation. When AAR age models are developed from a combined dataset to include this natural inter-colony variability THAA Asx D/L, Glx D/L and Ala D/L give a 2σ age uncertainty of ±19, ±38 and ±29 year, for the 20th C respectively; in comparison 2σ age uncertainties from a single colony are ±12, ±12 and ±14 year. This is the first demonstration of FAA D/L for dating coral and following strict protocols 2σ precisions of ±24 years can be achieved across different colonies in samples from the last 150 years, and can be ±10 years within a core from a single colony. Despite these relatively large error estimates, AAR would be a valuable tool in situations where a large number of samples need to be screened rapidly and cheaply (e.g. identifying material from mixed populations in beach or uplift deposits), prior to and complementing the more time-consuming geochronological tools of U/Th or seasonal isotopic timeseries.
Dipeptide hydrolysis and amino acid decomposition appear to follow a first-order rate law. The hydrolysis rate increases exponentially with increasing temperature in aqueous solution at both 265 atm and water steam pressures over the temperature range of 100 to 220 degrees C. Dipeptide hydrolysis has a lower apparent activation energy at 265 atm (44.1 KJ/mol) than at water steam pressure (98.9 KJ/mol). At lower temperatures (<200-220 degrees C), the rate of peptide bond hydrolysis is faster at 265 atm than at water steam pressure. At higher temperatures (>200-220 degrees C), however, peptide bond hydrolysis is slower at 265 atm than at water steam pressure. In aqueous solution, amino acid decomposition rates also increase exponentially with increasing temperature. Amino acid decomposition rates are much higher at 265 atm than at water steam pressure over the entire temperature range investigated.
A criticism of the claim by Shock and Schulte (1990) that there is a correlation between the amino acid abundances (relative to glycine) in the Murchison meteorite and their aqueous solubilities is presented. Their suggestion that 'the same factors which control the aqueous solubility of many amino acids also control their relative abundances in the Murchison meteorite is argued to be incorrect. It is proposed that even though the water/meteorite ratio would have been less during meteorite aqueous alteration than that in the 100-C laboratory extraction procedure, amino acids are simply too soluble. The distribution of other meteorite organic components such as PAHs may have been affected by alteration because they are only slightly soluble in water and can be easily separated by geochromatographic processes. In their reply Shock and Schulte contend that the critics argue against a point not made in their paper and that their argument was supported with several unsubstantiated assertions, including an unfounded claim that the temperature dependence of amino acid solubilities are 'not greatly different', a misrepresentation of isopiestic studies on concentration solutions as equilibrium solubility measurements.
We used a combination of porewater and solid phase analysis, as well as a series of sediment incubations, to quantify organic carbon oxidation by dissimilatory Fe reduction, Mn reduction, and sulfate reduction, in sediments from the Skagerrak (located off the northeast coast of Jutland, Denmark). In the deep portion of the basin, surface Mn enrichments reached 3.5 wt%, and Mn reduction was the only important anaerobic carbon oxidation process in the upper 10 cm of the sediment. In the less Mn-rich sediments from intermediate depths in the basin, Fe reduction ranged from somewhat less, to far more important than sulfate reduction. Most of the Mn reduction in these sediments may have been coupled to the oxidation of acid volatile sulfides (AVS), rather than to dissimilatory reduction. High rates of metal oxide reduction at all sites were driven by active recycling of both Fe and Mn, encouraged by bioturbation. Recycling was so rapid that the residence time of Fe and Mn oxides, with respect to reduction, ranged from 70-250 days. These results require that, on average, an atom of Fe or Mn is oxidized and reduced between 100-300 times before ultimate burial into the sediment. We observed that dissolved Mn2+ was completely removed onto fully oxidized Mn oxides until the oxidation level of the oxides was reduced to about 3.8, presumably reflecting the saturation by Mn2+ of highly reactive surface adsorption sites. Fully oxidized Mn oxides in sediments, then, may act as a cap preventing Mn2+ escape. We speculate that in shallow sediments of the Skagerrak, surface Mn oxides are present in a somewhat reduced oxidation level (< 3.8) allowing Mn2+ to escape, and perhaps providing the Mn2+ which enriches sediments of the deep basin.
Spectroscopic analyses show that Fe(3+)-doped smectites prepared in the laboratory exhibit important similarities to the soils on Mars. Ferrihydrite has been identified as the interlayer ferric component in Fe(3+)-doped smectites by a low quadrupole splitting and magnetic field strength of approximately 48 tesla in Mossbauer spectra measured at 4.2 K, as well as a crystal field transition at 0.92 micrometer. Ferrihydrite in these smectites explains features in the visible-near infrared region that resemble the energies and band strengths of features in reflectance spectra observed for several bright regions on Mars. Clay silicates have met resistance in the past as Mars soil analogs because terrestrial clay silicates exhibit prominent hydrous spectral features at 1.4, 1.9, and 2.2 micrometers; and these are observed weakly, if at all, in reflectance spectra of Mars. However, several mechanisms can weaken or compress these features, including desiccation under low-humidity conditions. The hydration properties of the interlayer cations also effect band strengths, such that a ferrihydrite-bearing smectite in the Martian environment would exhibit a 1.9 micrometers H2O absorption that is even weaker than the 2.2 micrometers structural OH absorption. Mixing experiments demonstrate that infrared spectral features of clays can be significantly suppressed and that the reflectance can be significantly darkened by mixing with only a few percent of a strongly absorbing opaque material. Therefore, the absolute reflectance of a soil on Mars may be disproportionately sensitive to a minor component. For this reason, the shape and position of spectral features and the chemical composition of potential analogs are of utmost importance in assessing the composition of the soil on Mars. Given the remarkable similarity between visible-infrared reflectance spectra of soils in bright regions on Mars and Fe(3+)-doped montmorillonites, coupled with recent observations of smectites in SNC meteorites and a weak 2.2 micrometers absorption in some Mars soils, ferrihydrite-bearing smectites warrant serious consideration as a Mars soil analog.
Simulations of the Gas Exchange Experiment (GEX), one of the Viking Lander Biology Experiments, were run using palagonite and Fe-rich montmorillonite as terrestrial analogs of the Martian soil. These terrestrial analogs were exposed to a nutrient solution of the same composition as that of the Viking Landers under humid (no contact with nutrient) and wet (intimate contact) conditions. The headspace gases in the GEX sample cell were sampled and then analyzed by gas chromatography under both humid and wet conditions. Five gases were monitored: CO2, N2, O2, Ar, and Kr. It was determined that in order to simulate the CO2 gas changes of the Viking GEX experiment, the mixture of soil analog mineral plus nutrient medium must be slightly (pH = 7.4) to moderately basic (pH = 8.7). This conclusion suggests constraints upon the composition of terrestrial analogs to the Mars soil; acidic components may be present, but the overall mixture must be basic in order to simulate the Viking GEX results.
Banded iron formations (BIF) are prominent in sediments older than 2 Ga. However, little is known about the absolute abundance of BIF in Archean and Early Proterozoic sediments, and the source of the Fe is still somewhat uncertain. Also unknown is the role that Fe may have played in the maintenance of low oxygen pressures in the Archean and Early Proterozoic atmosphere. An analysis of the chemical composition of Precambrian rocks provides some insight into the role of Fe in Precambrian geochemical cycles. The Fe content of igneous rocks is well correlated with their Ti content. Plots of Fe vs. Ti in Precambrian sandstones and graywackes fall very close to the igneous rock trend. Plots of Fe vs. Ti in Precambrian shales also follow this trend but show a definite scatter toward an excess of Fe. Phanerozoic shales and sandstones lie essentially on the igneous rock trend and show surprisingly little scatter. Mn/Ti relations show a stronger indication of Precambrian Mn loss, perhaps due to weathering under a less oxidizing early atmosphere. These data show that Fe was neither substantially added to nor significantly redistributed in Archean and early Proterozoic sediments. Enough hydrothermal Fe was added to these sediments to increase the average Fe content of shales by at most a factor of 2. This enrichment would probably not have greatly affected the near-surface redox cycle or atmospheric oxygen levels. Continued redistribution of Fe and mixing with weathered igneous rocks during the recycling of Precambrian sediments account for the excellent correlation of Fe with Ti in Phanerozoic shales and for the similarity between their Fe/Ti ratio and that of igneous rocks.
Recent analyses of the carbonate globules present in the Martian meteorite ALH84001 have detected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at the ppm level (McKay et al., 1996). The distribution of PAHs observed in ALH84001 was interpreted as being inconsistent with a terrestrial origin and were claimed to be indigenous to the meteorite, perhaps derived from an ancient martian biota. We have examined PAHs in the Antarctic shergottite EETA79001, which is also considered to be from Mars, as well as several Antarctic carbonaceous chondrites. We have found that many of the same PAHs detected in the ALH84001 carbonate globules are present in Antarctic carbonaceous chondrites and in both the matrix and carbonate (druse) component of EETA79001. We also investigated PAHs in polar ice and found that carbonate is an effective scavenger of PAHs in ice meltwater. Moreover, the distribution of PAHs in the carbonate extract of Antarctic Allan Hills ice is remarkably similar to that found in both EETA79001 and ALH84001. The reported presence of L-amino acids of apparent terrestrial origin in the EETA79001 druse material (McDonald and Bada, 1995) suggests that this meteorite is contaminated with terrestrial organics probably derived from Antarctic ice meltwater that had percolated through the meteorite. Our data suggests that the PAHs observed in both ALH84001 and EETA79001 are derived from either the exogenous delivery of organics to Mars or extraterrestrial and terrestrial PAHs present in the ice meltwater or, more likely, from a mixture of these sources. It would appear that PAHs are not useful biomarkers in the search for extinct or extant life on Mars.