Alchichica Lake

Alchichica Lake, Puebla

Alchichica is a crater lake located in the Ori­en­tal Basin at the bor­der of the states of Puebla, Tlax­cala and Ver­acruz. It is sit­u­ated at an alti­tude of 2,300 m above the sea level with a max­i­mum depth of 64 m (Escobar-​Briones et al. 1998). The lake is hypos­aline (8.510 g/​liter) and alka­line (pH 8.99.1) with sodium and chlo­ride being the dom­i­nant ions but also with bicar­bon­ate and car­bon­ate ions (Navarro et al, 2010). These con­di­tions are favor­able for active car­bon­ate depo­si­tion that results in the for­ma­tion of dis­tinc­tive stro­ma­to­lite struc­tures in the lit­toral region of the lake.
Despite their geo­log­i­cal and evo­lu­tion­ary impor­tance, the pre­cise stro­ma­to­lite for­ma­tion mech­a­nisms remain poorly under­stood and this site is one of a few in the world where the role of microor­gan­isms and envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions for stro­ma­to­lites for­ma­tion can be stud­ied (Couradeau et al., 2011). There­fore, this site is cru­cial to the under­stand­ing of the most ancient struc­tures formed by bio­log­i­cal activ­ity and rel­e­vant for Astro­bi­ol­ogy stud­ies. On the other hand, the Alchichica crater-​lake has been pro­posed for the study of bio­mark­ers for the search of life on Mars (Navarro et al., 2010).
The site has been stud­ied by Dr. Javier Alco­cer (Fac­ul­tad de Estu­dios Supe­ri­ores, Izta­cala, UNAM), Dr. Elva Esco­bar Briones (Insti­tuto de Cien­cias del Mar y Lim­nología, UNAM), Dr. Luisa Fal­cón (Insti­tuto de Ecología, UNAM), and more recently by the group led by Dr. Rafael Navarro-​González who col­lab­o­rates with Dr. Christo­pher McKay (NASA Ames Research Center).


Couradeau, E., Ben­z­er­ara, K., Mor­eira, D., Gérard, E., Kaźmier­czak, J., Tavera, R. and López-​García, P. 2011. Prokary­otic and Eukary­otic Com­mu­nity Struc­ture in Field and Cul­tured Micro­bialites from the Alka­line Lake Alchichica (Mex­ico). PLoS One. 6: e28767.

Bel­trán, Y., Cen­teno, C. M., García-​Oliva, F., Legendre, P., Fal­cón, L. I. 2012. N2 fix­a­tion rates and asso­ci­ated diver­sity (nifH) of micro­bialite and mat-​forming con­sor­tia from dif­fer­ent aquatic envi­ron­ments in Mex­ico. Aquatic Micro­bial Ecol­ogy 67:1524.

Escobar-​Briones, E., Alco­cer, J. Cien­fue­gos, E. and Morales, P. 1998. Car­bon sta­ble iso­topes ratios of pelagic and lit­toral com­mu­ni­ties in Alchichica crater-​lake, Mex­ico. Inter­na­tional Jour­nal of Salt Lake Research. 7: 345355.

Navarro, K. F., Navarro-​González, R., Alco­cer, J., Esco­bar, E., Morales, P., Cien­fue­gos, E., Coll, P., Raulin, F., Stal­port, F., Cabane, M., Per­son, A., and McKay, C. 2010. Chem­i­cal sig­na­tures of life in mod­ern stro­ma­to­lites from Lake Alchichica, Mex­ico. Appli­ca­tions for the search of life on Mars. 38th COSPAR Sci­en­tific Assem­bly. Held at 1815 July 2010, in Bre­men, Ger­many, p.13.

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