Identification of haloarchaea in gypsum from Great Salt Lake

Zhantao Du and Dr. Bonnie Baxter, Great Salt Lake Institute, Westminster College, 1840S 1300E, Salt Lake City, UT, 84105

Modern salt lakes on Earth may provide analogous geobiology settings to Mars, where ancient lakes dried into evaporite salts as the planet lost surface water billions of years ago. Gypsum, calcium sulfate, is a common mineral evaporite at Great Salt Lake and other hypersaline environments. In the crystallization process, microorganisms can be trapped inside, and previous studies suggest they may survive over geologic time. The mineral-saturated fluid inclusions may not only protect the archaea from physical and chemical damage, but they also provide water. The goal of this study is to identify the haloarchaea entrapped in Great Salt Lake gypsum crystals using cultivation-dependent PCR and DNA sequencing methods. Gypsum was surface sterilized then crushed to expose the microbes inside inclusions to salt growth media. Compared with halite, sodium chloride, crystals, the gypsum reveals a much lower population density. We will present genetic data on species that we have isolated from gypsum crystals from this lake and a comparative analysis with halite cultures. Since gypsum has been located at many ancient lake sites on Mars, this study at Great Salt Lake may provide a model to understand the preservation of microorganisms in Mars mineral evaporites over geologic time.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Zhantao Du

Institution: Westminster College

Type: Poster

Subject: Biology

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 3
Date/Time: Mon 4:30pm-5:30pm
Session Number: 3146