Start date:
Early December
End date:
Mid January
Battleship Promontory, Linnaeus Terrace, Elektra Mountain, Mount Fleming, Horseshoe Mountain
Principle Investigator:
Professor Laura Selbmann
University of Tuscia, Viterbo
In the Antarctic McMurdo Dry Valleys, the best Martian analogue on Earth, the endolithic microbial communities represent the predominant life-form. Endolithic life is a border adaptation to the environmental constrains supplying the last chance of survival to microorganisms. Living at the edge of their biological potential, endolithic Antarctic communities are very sensitive to any external perturbations. The aim of this work is to study biodiversity variation and community composition according to the increasing of environmental pressure due to altitude, sun exposure and sea distance, till the limit of extinction. Data will give tools for monitoring and predicting any future variation due to Climate Change and defining the limits of habitability in Mars-like Antarctic environments, with strong implications for Astrobiology. A research team of two participants will visit the following locations in the McMurdo Dry Valleys: Battleship Promontory, Linnaeus Terrace, Elektra Mountain, Mount Fleming, Horseshoe Mountain. The localities will be reached with 3-4 one-day travels by helicopter from Mario Zucchelli Station. At Battleship Promontory data from micro-monitoring stations (temperature, humidity, PAR), installed in the frame of the Italian Antarctic campaign 2015-16, will be retrieved. In all the localities, sandstone samples will be collected both at north and south exposed surfaces to be studied with metabarcoding approaches. Battleship Promontory, Linnaeus Terrace, and Mt Elektra North are known to be well colonized by endolithic communities; in Mt Fleming and Horshoe Mountain are, instead, reported fossilized endolithic communities.