Is Extraterrestrial Life Suppressed On Subsurface Ocean Worlds Due To The Paucity Of Bioessential Elements?

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Europa

The availability of bioessential elements for "life as we know it", such as phosphorus (P) or possibly molybdenum (Mo), is expected to restrict the biological productivity of extraterrestrial biospheres.

Here, we focus on worlds with subsurface oceans and model the sources and sinks of bioessential elements. We find that the sinks of P are likely to dominate over its sources provided that these oceans are either neutral or alkaline and possess hydrothermal activity. Hence, we conclude that the P in subsurface oceans could be depleted over Myr timescales, thereby leading to oligotrophic or non-existent global biospheres and low chances of life being detected.

Along these lines, any potential biospheres in the clouds of Venus may be limited by the availability of Mo. We also point out the possibility that stellar spectroscopy can be used to place potential constraints on the availability of bioessential elements on planets and moons.

Manasvi Lingam, Abraham Loeb
(Submitted on 31 May 2018)
Comments: 7 pages; 0 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1806.00018 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1806.00018v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Manasvi Lingam
[v1] Thu, 31 May 2018 18:00:06 GMT (63kb)
http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/1806.00018
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