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Multiple early-formed water reservoirs in the interior of Mars


The abundance and distribution of water within Mars through time plays a fundamental role in constraining its geological evolution and habitability. The isotopic composition of Martian hydrogen provides insights into the interplay between different water reservoirs on Mars. However, D/H (deuterium/hydrogen) ratios of Martian rocks and of the Martian atmosphere span a wide range of values. This has complicated identification of distinct water reservoirs in and on Mars within the confines of existing models that assume an isotopically homogenous mantle. Here we present D/H data collected by secondary ion mass spectrometry for two Martian meteorites. These data indicate that the Martian crust has been characterized by a constant D/H ratio over the last 3.9 billion years. The crust represents a reservoir with a D/H ratio that is intermediate between at least two isotopically distinct primordial water reservoirs within the Martian mantle, sampled by partial melts from geochemically depleted and enriched mantle sources. From mixing calculations, we find that a subset of depleted Martian basalts are consistent with isotopically light hydrogen (low D/H) in their mantle source, whereas enriched shergottites sampled a mantle source containing heavy hydrogen (high D/H). We propose that the Martian mantle is chemically heterogeneous with multiple water reservoirs, indicating poor mixing within the mantle after accretion, differentiation, and its subsequent thermochemical evolution.

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Fig. 1: Hydrogen isotopic composition versus H2O content of mineral phases in Martian crustal lithologies.
Fig. 2: Age constraints on the hydrogen isotopic composition of the Martian crust.
Fig. 3: Mixing models and texturally constrained observations used to define multiple mantle H reservoirs.
Fig. 4: Illustration showing the present-day hydrogen reservoirs in and on Mars.

Data availability

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this article and its supplementary information files. All new data associated with this paper will be made publicly available via The UA Campus Repository (


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This work was supported by the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (grant no. ST/L000776/1 to M.A. and I.A.F.). J.J.B. thanks the NASA Postdoctoral Program for the fellowship under which part of the data collection and all the manuscript writing was performed. F.M.M. was supported by NASA’s Planetary Science Research Program. We thank the Meteorite Working Group and the curation office at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) for allocation of Antarctic meteorite ALH84001,7 and 205. The US Antarctic meteorite samples are recovered by the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) programme, which has been funded by NSF and NASA and characterized and curated by the Department of Mineral Sciences of the Smithsonian Institution and Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Office at NASA JSC. A. Nguyen is thanked for her assistance with NanoSIMS operations at JSC. D. K. Ross is thanked for assistance with electron microprobe analysis at JSC.

Author information




F.M.M. and J.J.B. conceived the project. J.J.B., F.M.M. and A.R.S. collected electron beam data. J.J.B. collected and reduced all isotopic data. All authors contributed to the writing and to discussions and revision of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jessica J. Barnes.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Editor recognition statement Primary Handling Editor: Stefan Lachowycz.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Plot showing the average D/H for minerals and glasses versus shock pressure for shergottites.

There is no apparent correlation between shergottite type and shock implantation of hydrogen. Where: Y = Yamato 980459, T = Tissint, Z = Zagami, Sh = Shergotty, S = Sayh al Uhaymir 005, D = Dar al Gani 005, Q = Queen Alexandra Range 94201, and L = Los Angeles. D/H data are compiled in Supplementary Table 2. Note that only non-impact glass/groundmass D/H reported from Q and L, and only feldspathic glass reported from S and D. Error bars represent standard deviation of the mean for D/H and the range in reported shock pressures42,43.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Discussion, Figs. 1–10 and Table 3.

Supplementary Data 1

A compilation of the in situ H isotope and electron microprobe data acquired in this study.

Supplementary Data 2

A repository of all the D/H data used in this study. The table indicates the literature data used to define the H-isotope compositions of the shergottite mantle sources. The table also includes some bulk-rock La/Yb data from the literature.

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Barnes, J.J., McCubbin, F.M., Santos, A.R. et al. Multiple early-formed water reservoirs in the interior of Mars. Nat. Geosci. 13, 260–264 (2020).

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