Biomarkers and microfossils in the Murchison, Rainbow, and Tagish Lake meteorites

Richard B. Hoover, Gregory Jerman, Alexei Yu Rozanov, Paul Davies

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

19 Scopus citations


During the past six years, we have conducted extensive scanning electron and optical microscopy investigations and x-ray analysis to determine the morphology, life cycle processes, and elemental distributions in living and fossil cyanobacteria, bacteria, archaea, fungi, and algae sampled from terrestrial environments relevant to Astrobiology. Biominerals, pseudomorphs and microfossils have been studied for diverse microbial groups in various states of preservation in many types of rocks (e.g., oil shales, graphites, shungites, bauxites, limestones, pyrites, phosphorites, and hydrothermal vent chimneys). Results of these studies have been applied to the search for biosignatures in carbonaceous chondrites, stony, and nickel iron meteorites. We review important biomarkers found in terrestrial rocks and meteorites and present additional evidence for the existence of indigenous bacterial microfossils in-situ in freshly fractured surfaces of the Murchison, Rainbow and Tagish Lake carbonaceous meteorites. We provide secondary and backscatter electron images and spectral data obtained with Field Emission and Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopes of biominerals and microfossils. We discuss techniques for discriminating indigenous microfossils from recent terrestrial contaminants. Images are provided of framboidal magnetites in oil shales and meteorites and images and 2D x-ray maps are shown of bacterial microfossils embedded in the mineral matrix of the Murchison, Rainbow and Tagish Lake Carbonaceous Meteorites. These microfossils exhibit characteristics that preclude their interpretation as post-arrival contaminants and we interpret them as indigenous biogenic remains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
EditorsR.B. Hoover, A.Y. Rozanov, R.R. Paepe
Number of pages17
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes
EventInstruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology V - Waikoloa, HI, United States
Duration: Aug 22 2002Aug 23 2002


OtherInstruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology V
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityWaikoloa, HI


  • Astrobiology
  • Biomarkers
  • Meteorites
  • Microfossils
  • Murchison
  • Rainbow
  • Tagish Lake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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