Potential for impact glass to preserve microbial metabolism

Haley M. Sapers, Neil R. Banerjee, Gordon R. Osinski

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume 430, 15 November 2015, Pages 95–104


Here we provide the first high-resolution geochemical evidence for microbial metabolism to be preserved in impact-generated materials. This study is unique as not only do we merge complimentary analytical techniques such as high-resolution spectromicroscopy to assess the biogenicity of tubules in impact glasses, but we compare these results to those from co-occurring abiotic quench crystallites as an intrinsic negative control. Scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM) near edge X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy (NEXAFS) at the Fe L3- and C K-edges revealed iron speciation patterns and organic C associated with tubular features in the impact glass. The high spatial resolution of STXM combined with NEXAFS allowed organic carbon to be localized to the tubule features. The fine energy resolution of NEXAFS allowed for unique populations of organic carbon to be spectrally differentiated between the tubule features and the matrix. The distinct and systematic variation in iron redox states observed is consistent with microbially mediated dissimilatory iron reduction. The Ries tubules comprise the first trace fossil preserved in a substrate unique to the impact process, thus illustrating the potential for microbial metabolism to be preserved in impact materials.