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  • Patrick Jung

Astrobiology: Grit Crust

The grit crust is a recently discovered, novel type of biocrust made of

prokaryotic cyanobacteria, eukaryotic green algae, fungi, lichens and other

microbes that grow around and within granitoid stone pebbles of about 6 mm

diameter in the Coastal Range of the Atacama Desert, Chile. The microbial

community is very well adapted towards the extreme conditions of the Atacama

Desert, such as the highest irradiation of the planet, strong temperature

amplitudes and steep wet-dry cycles. It also has several other striking

features making this biocrust unique compared to biocrusts known from

other arid biomes on Earth. It has already been shown that the grit crust

mediates various bio-weathering activities in its natural habitat. These

activities prime soil for higher organisms in a way that can be envisioned as

a proxy for general processes shaping even extra-terrestrial landscapes. Our recently published

mini-review highlights the potential of the grit crust as a model for astrobiology

in terms of extra-terrestrial microbial colonization and biotechnological

applications that support human colonization of planets.

The article was published in Frontiers Astronomy and Space Sciences, section Astrobiology.

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