Mars rover techniques and lower/middle Cambrian microbialites from South Australia

construction, biofacies, and biogeochemistry

Bronwyn L. Teece*, Simon C. George, Oluwatoosin Bunmi A. Agbaje, Sarah M. Jacquet, Glenn A. Brock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Perseverance rover (Mars 2020) is equipped with an instrumental and analytical payload capable of identifying a broad range of organic molecules in geological samples. To determine the efficacy of these analytical techniques in recognizing important ecological and environmental signals in the rock record, this study utilized analogous equipment, including gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, Raman spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence (XRF), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, along with macroscopic and petrographic observations, to examine early-middle Cambrian microbialites from the Arrowie Basin, South Australia. Morphological and petrographic observations of these carbonate successions reveal evidence of hypersaline-restricted environments. Microbialites have undergone moderate diagenesis, as supported by XRF data that show mineral assemblages, including celestine and the illitization of smectite. Raman spectral data, carbon preference indices of ∼1, and the methylphenanthrene index place the samples in the prehnite/pumpellyite metamorphic facies. Pristane and phytane are the only biomarkers that were detected in the least thermally mature samples. This research demonstrates a multitechnique approach that can yield significant geological, depositional, paleobiological, and diagenetic information that has important implications for planning future astrobiological exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-657
Number of pages21
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Stromatolite
  • Carbonate
  • FTIR
  • XRF
  • Raman
  • Thermal maturity

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