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    The "Search for life", which may be extinct or extant on other planetary bodies is one of the major goals of NASA planetary exploration missions. Finding such evidence of biological residue in a vast planetary landscape is an enormous challenge. We have developed a highly sensitive instrument, the "Compact Color Biofinder", which can locate minute amounts of biological material in a large area at video speed from a standoff distance. Here we demonstrate the efficacy of the Biofinder to detect fossils that still possess strong bio-fluorescence signals from a collection of samples. Fluorescence images taken by the Biofinder instrument show that all Knightia spp. fish fossils analysed from the Green River formation (Eocene, 56.0-33.9 Mya) still contain considerable amounts of biological residues. The biofluorescence images support the fact that organic matter has been well preserved in the Green River formation, and thus, not diagenetically replaced (replaced by minerals) over such a significant timescale. We further corroborated results from the Biofinder fluorescence imagery through Raman and attenuated total reflection Fourier-transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopies, scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), and fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM). Our findings confirm once more that biological residues can survive millions of years, and that using biofluorescence imaging effectively detects these trace residues in real time. We anticipate that fluorescence imaging will be critical in future NASA missions to detect organics and the existence of life on other planetary bodies. © 2022. The Author(s).


    Anupam K Misra, Sonia J Rowley, Jie Zhou, Tayro E Acosta-Maeda, Luis Dasilveira, Gregory Ravizza, Kenta Ohtaki, Tina M Weatherby, A Zachary Trimble, Patrick Boll, John N Porter, Christopher P McKay. Biofinder detects biological remains in Green River fish fossils from Eocene epoch at video speed. Scientific reports. 2022 Jun 17;12(1):10164

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    PMID: 35715549

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