Exceptional preservation of Mn-oxidizing microbes in cave stromatolites (El Soplao, Spain)



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Lozano Fernández, Rafael P. and Rossi, Carlos (2012) Exceptional preservation of Mn-oxidizing microbes in cave stromatolites (El Soplao, Spain). Sedimentary Geology, 255-56 . pp. 42-55. ISSN 0037-0738

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Many ferromanganese stromatolites of El Soplao Cave (N Spain) are characterized for the exceptional preservation and high diversity of ferromanganese stromatolites , probably representing the best example of microbial preservation described in ferromanganese deposits so far.

The El Soplao stromatolites are mainly formed by polymetallic Mn-rich oxides with subordinate and variable amounts of detrital material, and consist of both dendritic and laminar microfacies. In both microfacies, microbial forms are abundant in the relatively pure Mn-oxide rich material, whereas they are scarce in areas with significant detrital material. Microbial forms are observed either in cross section, completely embedded in the Mn-oxide-rich matrix, or in three dimensions lining the walls of pores. Based on their morphology, we have separated the most abundant microbial forms into six main morphotypes and six additional submorphotypes, most of which can be assigned to bacteria. Most morphotypes consist of coccoid, coccobacilus, or filamentous forms. Therefore they are not diagnostic of any particular bacterial group. However, the ovoid cells of morphotype B show cylindrical polar protuberances typical of prosthecate alpha-Proteobacteria. On the basis of characteristic morphological features, three submorphotypes of morphotype B can be assigned to three alpha-Proteobacteria genera: Hyphomicrobium, Pedomicrobium, and Caulobacter. This ascription is supported by the well known Mn-oxidizing behavior of both Pedomicrobium and Caulobacter, and by the common presence of Hyphomicrobium in ferromanganese deposits elsewhere.

The excellent microbial preservation is partly related to the origin of the ferromanganese oxides, i.e. extracellular precipitation induced by microbial metabolism. Other factors contributing to the good microbial preservation are the relatively low degree of diagenetic alteration, and the relatively high accretion rates of stromatolites compared to other ferromanganese deposits. The generally low degree of diagenesis is likely because the stromatolites have remained relatively stable and at a rather low temperature since they were formed at least 1 Ma ago. Still, some stromatolites have suffered diagenetic alteration (partial dissolution and replacement by calcium carbonates and Fe-rich oxides), obscuring or even obliterating their bioforms. The El Soplao case represents an example of how easily biogenic Mn oxides can be altered, and their bioforms blurred, in a relatively short geological time span in spite of being in a relatively stable, alkaline, and low-temperature setting. A geological implication is that the absence of bioforms in other ferromanganese deposits, including rock varnish and Precambrian iron formations, does not disprove their possible biogenic origin, since the high chemical reactivity of biogenic manganese oxides makes them highly vulnerable to diagenesis.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Stromatolites, Manganese oxides, Mn-oxidizing microbes, Fossil microbes, El Soplao cave.
Subjects:Sciences > Geology > Paleontology
Sciences > Geology > Petrology
ID Code:68892
Deposited On:30 Nov 2021 06:43
Last Modified:30 Nov 2021 08:04

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