The role of microbes in accretion, lamination and early lithification of modern marine stromatolites

Pamela R Reid, P. T. Visscher, A. W. Decho, J. F. Stolz, B. M. Bebout, C. Dupraz, I. G. Macintyre, H. W. Paerl, J. L. Pinckney, L. Prufert-Bebout, T. F. Steppe, D. J. DesMarais

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Abstract

For three billion years, before the Cambrian diversification of life, laminated carbonate build-ups called stromatolites were wide-spread in shallow marine seas1,2. These ancient structures are generally thought to be microbial in origin and potentially preserve evidence of the Earth's earliest biosphere1-3. Despite their evolutionary significance, little is known about stromatolite formation, especially the relative roles of microbial and environmental factors in stromatolite accretion1,3. Here we show that growth of modern marine stromatolites represents a dynamic balance between sedimentation and intermittent lithification of cyanobacterial mats. Periods of rapid sediment accretion, during which stromatolite surfaces are dominated by pioneer communities of gliding filamentous cyanobacteria, alternate with hiatal intervals. These discontinuities in sedimentation are characterized by development of surface films of exopolymer and subsequent heterotrophic bacterial decomposition, forming thin crusts of microcrystalline carbonate. During prolonged hiatal periods, climax communities develop, which include endolithic coccoid cyanobacteria. These coccoids modify the sediment, forming thicker lithified laminae. Preservation of lithified layers at depth creates millimetre-scale lamination. This simple model of modern marine stromatolite growth may be applicable to ancient stromatolites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)989-992
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume406
Issue number6799
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 31 2000

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Carbonates
Cyanobacteria
Growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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Reid, P. R., Visscher, P. T., Decho, A. W., Stolz, J. F., Bebout, B. M., Dupraz, C., ... DesMarais, D. J. (2000). The role of microbes in accretion, lamination and early lithification of modern marine stromatolites. Nature, 406(6799), 989-992. https://doi.org/10.1038/35023158

The role of microbes in accretion, lamination and early lithification of modern marine stromatolites. / Reid, Pamela R; Visscher, P. T.; Decho, A. W.; Stolz, J. F.; Bebout, B. M.; Dupraz, C.; Macintyre, I. G.; Paerl, H. W.; Pinckney, J. L.; Prufert-Bebout, L.; Steppe, T. F.; DesMarais, D. J.

In: Nature, Vol. 406, No. 6799, 31.08.2000, p. 989-992.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Reid, PR, Visscher, PT, Decho, AW, Stolz, JF, Bebout, BM, Dupraz, C, Macintyre, IG, Paerl, HW, Pinckney, JL, Prufert-Bebout, L, Steppe, TF & DesMarais, DJ 2000, 'The role of microbes in accretion, lamination and early lithification of modern marine stromatolites', Nature, vol. 406, no. 6799, pp. 989-992. https://doi.org/10.1038/35023158
Reid PR, Visscher PT, Decho AW, Stolz JF, Bebout BM, Dupraz C et al. The role of microbes in accretion, lamination and early lithification of modern marine stromatolites. Nature. 2000 Aug 31;406(6799):989-992. https://doi.org/10.1038/35023158
Reid, Pamela R ; Visscher, P. T. ; Decho, A. W. ; Stolz, J. F. ; Bebout, B. M. ; Dupraz, C. ; Macintyre, I. G. ; Paerl, H. W. ; Pinckney, J. L. ; Prufert-Bebout, L. ; Steppe, T. F. ; DesMarais, D. J. / The role of microbes in accretion, lamination and early lithification of modern marine stromatolites. In: Nature. 2000 ; Vol. 406, No. 6799. pp. 989-992.
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