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Astrobiology. 2013 Dec;13(12):1103-24. doi: 10.1089/ast.2013.1030. Epub 2013 Nov 8.

Microbially induced sedimentary structures recording an ancient ecosystem in the ca. 3.48 billion-year-old Dresser Formation, Pilbara, Western Australia.

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  • 11 Old Dominion University , Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Norfolk, Virginia, USA .

Abstract

Microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS) result from the response of microbial mats to physical sediment dynamics. MISS are cosmopolitan and found in many modern environments, including shelves, tidal flats, lagoons, riverine shores, lakes, interdune areas, and sabkhas. The structures record highly diverse communities of microbial mats and have been reported from numerous intervals in the geological record up to 3.2 billion years (Ga) old. This contribution describes a suite of MISS from some of the oldest well-preserved sedimentary rocks in the geological record, the early Archean (ca. 3.48 Ga) Dresser Formation, Western Australia. Outcrop mapping at the meter to millimeter scale defined five sub-environments characteristic of an ancient coastal sabkha. These sub-environments contain associations of distinct macroscopic and microscopic MISS. Macroscopic MISS include polygonal oscillation cracks and gas domes, erosional remnants and pockets, and mat chips. Microscopic MISS comprise tufts, sinoidal structures, and laminae fabrics; the microscopic laminae are composed of primary carbonaceous matter, pyrite, and hematite, plus trapped and bound grains. Identical suites of MISS occur in equivalent environmental settings through the entire subsequent history of Earth including the present time. This work extends the geological record of MISS by almost 300 million years. Complex mat-forming microbial communities likely existed almost 3.5 billion years ago.

PMID:
24205812
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3870916
Free PMC Article
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