Preservation of microbial lipids in geothermal sinters

Gurpreet Kaur*, Bruce W. Mountain, Ellen C. Hopmans, Richard D. Pancost

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Lipid biomarkers are widely used to study the earliest life on Earth and have been invoked as potential astrobiological markers, but few studies have assessed their survival and persistence in geothermal settings. Here, we investigate lipid preservation in active and inactive geothermal silica sinters, with ages of up to 900 years, from Champagne Pool, Waiotapu, New Zealand. Analyses revealed a wide range of bacterial biomarkers, including free and bound fatty acids, 1,2-di-O-alkylglycerols (diethers), and various hopanoids. Dominant archaeal lipids include archaeol and glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs). The predominance of generally similar biomarker groups in all sinters suggests a stable microbial community throughout Champagne Pool's history and indicates that incorporated lipids can be well preserved. Moreover, subtle differences in lipid distributions suggest that past changes in environmental conditions can be elucidated. In this case, higher archaeol abundances relative to the bacterial diethers, a greater proportion of cyclic GDGTs, the high average chain length of the bacterial diethers, and greater concentrations of hopanoic acids in the older sinters all suggest hotter conditions at Champagne Pool in the past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-274
Number of pages16
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2011


  • Archaeol
  • Bacterial diethers
  • Extremophiles
  • Fatty acids
  • Lipid biomarkers
  • Silica sinters

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