OL.20.001 – Biomineralization: developing and applying a new set of biomarkers for the recognition of early Life

Route: The origin of life - on earth and in the universe

Cluster question: 134 How did life arise and how does evolution work?

All through the history of Humanity individuals and societies have developed ideas about an origin, and therefore the Origin of Life is perhaps the most profound, and unifying enigma to Mankind. The question concerning the origin of life was identified in the Netherlands National Science Agenda as one of the key questions posed by the general public to the sci-entific community. Here, we propose to add a better understanding of this question by de-veloping new biomineralization based tracers for metabolism (and hence Life) using a multidisciplinary approach combining sedimentology, isotope and trace element geochemistry, and microbiology.
The research will focus first on present-day microbial mats that are considered analogues of the oldest known ecosystems: fossil stromatolites of up to 3.95 Ga. Mats from con-trasting environments will be studied to develop multi-proxy tools that can be used to trace biomineralization of carbonate and silicate minerals. These newly derived multi-proxy ap-proaches will then be tested on ancient remnants of such microbial mats found in the earli-est sediments on Earth.
The overarching focus of this research will be the unequivocal identification of Life in these ancient microbial mats from its biomineralization signals. While formulating an answer to the societal demand for a better understanding of the roots of life is central in the proposed research, the improved knowledge of microbial mat systems has potential for better under-standing bio-signals in sediments, if found, elsewhere in the Solar system, bioremediation of polluted environments, and the role of algal mats in a dynamic shallow marine environments such as the tidal flats of the Dutch Wadden Sea for fixating clay minerals and possible sea level rise mitigation.


biomineralization, biosignature, early Life on Earth, Mars, microbial mats, Sr-Mg isotopes of carbonate and silicate minerals


Organisation Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)
Name Dr. Monica Sanchez-Roman
E-mail m.sanchezroman@vu.nl
Website https://research.vu.nl/en/persons/monica-sanchez-roman