The presence of perchlorate on Mars suggests a possible energy source for sustaining microbial life. Perchlorate-reducing microbes have been isolated from perchlorate-contaminated soils and sediments on the Earth, but to date, never from an environment that is naturally enriched in perchlorate. The arid Pilot Valley paleolake basin in Utah is a Mars analog environment whose sediments are naturally enriched with up to ∼6.5 μg kg -1 perchlorate oxyanions. Here, we present results of field and laboratory studies indicating that perchlorate-reducing microorganisms co-occur with this potential electron acceptor. Biogeochemical data suggest ongoing perchlorate reduction; phylogenetic data indicate the presence of diverse microbial communities; and laboratory enrichments using Pilot Valley sediments show that resident microbes can reduce perchlorate. This is the first article of the co-existence of perchlorate-reducing microbes in an environment where perchlorate occurs naturally, arguing for Pilot Valley's utility as an analog for studying biogeochemical processes that may have occurred, and may yet still be occurring, in ancient martian lacustrine sediments.
- Mars analog
- Perchlorate-reducing bacteria