Morse, A. D.; Lainez, A. and Howard, K. T.
Exploration of lava tubes in the Teide National Park, a martian analog.
In: First International Planetary Caves Workshop, 24th - 28th October 2011, Carlsbad, NM, USA.
Lava tubes and volcanic caves are a potential habitat for Martian life and a target for astrobiological studies. Evidence for the existence of Martian caves such as long lava channels and lines of pits have been identified from orbiting space craft  and epithermal neutron maps indicate the presence of water a few metres below the surface  which would be accessible to cave life. Inside the caves, any life will have access to water and would be sheltered from the harsh surface conditions of UV radiation and low humidity as well as from the prevailing weather conditions. The caves in the Teide national park of Tenerife are an ideal terrestrial analogue of Martian caves. They are situated at an altitude of 2500 m in an area of low humidity. Additionally, contamination is reduced as access to the area is limited for conservation reasons. In June 2010, permission was granted by the Parque Nacional del Teide for rock samples to be collected from two caves, Cuevas Negras and Sima de Vicky and the surrounding areas. The aim of this work was to conduct a preliminary study to characterise the microbial (Bacteria and Archaea) communities that live in volcanic caves and draw parallels with the type of life that may exist on Mars.
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