Aeolian transport of viable microbial life across the Atacama Desert, Chile: Implications for Mars

Armando Azua-Bustos, Carlos González-Silva, Miguel Ángel Fernández-Martínez, Cristián Arenas-Fajardo, Ricardo Fonseca, F. Javier Martín-Torres, Maite Fernández-Sampedro, Alberto G. Fairén, María Paz Zorzano

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    30 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Here we inspect whether microbial life may disperse using dust transported by wind in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, a well-known Mars analog model. By setting a simple experiment across the hyperarid core of the Atacama we found that a number of viable bacteria and fungi are in fact able to traverse the driest and most UV irradiated desert on Earth unscathed using wind-transported dust, particularly in the later afternoon hours. This finding suggests that microbial life on Mars, extant or past, may have similarly benefited from aeolian transport to move across the planet and find suitable habitats to thrive and evolve.

    Original languageBritish English
    Article number11024
    JournalScientific Reports
    Volume9
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019

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