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Volume 21 Issue 1 (January 2011)

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Article, pp. 4-9 | Full Text | PDF (3.7MB)

Microbial communities in fluid inclusions and long-term survival in halite

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Tim K. Lowenstein1*, Brian A. Schubert1**, Michael N. Timofeeff1

1 Dept. of Geological Sciences & Environmental Studies, State University of New York, Binghamton, New York 13902, USA


Fluid inclusions in modern and ancient buried halite from Death Valley and Saline Valley, California, USA, contain an ecosystem of “salt-loving” (halophilic) prokaryotes and eukaryotes, some of which are alive. Prokaryotes may survive inside fluid inclusions for tens of thousands of years using carbon and other metabolites supplied by the trapped microbial community, most notably the single-celled alga Dunaliella, an important primary producer in hypersaline systems. Deeper understanding of the long-term survival of prokaryotes in fluid inclusions will complement studies that further explore microbial life on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system, where materials that potentially harbor microorganisms are millions and even billions of years old.


**Now at Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, University of Hawai'i at M¯anoa, Honolulu, Hawai'i 96822, USA

Manuscript received 19 Sept. 2009; accepted 25 Apr. 2010

DOI: 10.1130/GSATG81A.1