Picard, A; Kappler, A; Schmid, G; Quaroni, L; Obst, M: Morphological and organic biosignatures of microaerophilic Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria are preserved during experimental diagenesis, Nature Communications, 6(6277), 1-8 (2015), doi:10.1038/ncomms7277 [Link]
Abstract:

Twisted stalks are organo-mineral structures produced by some microaerophilic Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria at O2 concentrations as low as 3mM. The presence of these structures in rocks having experienced a diagenetic history could indicate microbial Fe(II)- oxidizing activity as well as localized abundance of oxygen at the time of sediment deposition. Here we use spectroscopy and analytical microscopy to evaluate if—and what kind of—transformations occur in twisted stalks through experimental diagenesis. Unique mineral textures appear on stalks as temperature and pressure conditions increase. Haematite and magnetite form from ferrihydrite at 170°C–120MPa. Yet the twisted morphology of the stalks, and the organic matrix, mainly composed of long-chain saturated aliphatic compounds, are preserved at 250 °C–140 MPa. Our results suggest that iron minerals might play a role in maintaining the structural and chemical integrity of stalks under diagenetic conditions and provide spectroscopic signatures for the search of ancient life in the rock record.

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