Biosignatures & Paleobiology

A Biotic Habitable Zone: Impacts Of Adaptation In Biotic Temperature Regulation

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
March 20, 2023
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A Biotic Habitable Zone: Impacts Of Adaptation In Biotic Temperature Regulation
Schematic of an ExoGaia planet — astro-ph.EP

The search for biosignatures necessitates developing our understanding of life under different conditions.

If life can influence the climate evolution of its planet then understanding the behaviour of life-climate feedbacks under extreme conditions is key to determine the ‘edges’ of the habitable zone.

Additionally understanding the behaviour of a temperature limited biosphere will help towards formulating biosignature predictions for alien life living under conditions very different to those on Earth. Towards this aim, we extend the ‘ExoGaia Model’ – an abstract model of microbial life living on a highly simplified 0-dimensional planet.

Via their metabolisms, microbes influence the atmospheric composition and therefore the temperature of the planet and emergent feedback loops allow microbes to regulate their climate and maintain long term habitability. Here, we adapt the ExoGaia model to include temperature adaptation of the microbes by allowing different species to have different temperature ‘preferences’.

We find that rather than adapting towards the planet’s abiotic conditions the biosphere tends to more strongly influence the climate of its planet, suggesting that the surface temperature of an inhabited planet might be significantly different from that predicted using abiotic models. We find that the success rate for microbial establishment on planets is improved when adaptation is allowed.

However, planetary abiotic context is important for determining whether overall survival prospects for life will be improved or degraded. These results indicate the necessity to develop an understanding of life living under different limiting regimes to form predictions for the boundaries of the habitable zone.

A. E. Nicholson, N. J. Mayne

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Populations and Evolution (q-bio.PE)
Cite as: arXiv:2303.10052 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2303.10052v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
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Submission history
From: Arwen Nicholson Dr [view email]
[v1] Fri, 17 Mar 2023 15:25:22 UTC (2,590 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻