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The Determination of the Spatial Distribution of Indigenous Lipid Biomarkers in an Immature Jurassic Sediment Using Time-of-F...

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The ability to detect and map lipids, including potential lipid biomarkers, within a sedimentary matrix using mass spectrometry (MS) imaging may be critical to determine whether potential lipids detected in samples returned from Mars are indigenous to Mars or are contaminants. Here, we use gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and time-of-flight–secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) datasets collected from an organic-rich, thermally immature Jurassic geologic sample to constrain MS imaging analysis of indigenous lipid biomarkers in geologic samples. GC-MS data show that the extractable fractions are dominated by C27–C30 steranes and sterenes as well as isorenieratene derivatives. ToF-SIMS spectra from organic matter-rich laminae contain a strong, spatially restricted signal for ions m/z 370.3, m/z 372.3, and m/z 386.3, which we assign to C27 sterenes, cholestane (C27), and 4- or 24-methyl steranes (C28), respectively, as well as characteristic fragment ions of isorenieratene derivatives, including m/z 133.1, m/z 171.1, and m/z 237.1. We observed individual steroid spatial heterogeneity at the scale of 10's to 100's of microns. The fine-scale heterogeneity observed implies that indigenous lipid biomarkers concentrated within specific regions may be detectable via ToF-SIMS in samples with even low amounts of organic carbon, including in samples returned from Mars.