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Letters to Nature
Nature 349, 605 - 608 (14 February 1991); doi:10.1038/349605a0

Largest known microbialites discovered in Lake Van, Turkey

S. Kempe*, J. Kazmierczak, G. Landmann*, T. Konuk§, A. Reimer* & A. Lipp*

*Institute of Biogeochemistry and Marine Chemistry, University of Hamburg, Bundesstrasse 55, D-2000 Hamburg 13, Germany
Institute of Paleobiology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Al. Zwirki i Wigury 93, PL-02089 Warszawa, Poland
§Institute of Marine Science and Technology, Dokuz Eylül University, Konak, Izmir, Turkey
To whom correspondence should be addressed.

MICROBIALITES are organosedimentary deposits produced by benthic microbial communities interacting with detrital or chemical sediments1. Calcareous cyanobacterial microbialites defined as stromatolites and thrombolites were common in ancient shallow marine environments2. Today, they are restricted to a few lacustrine and perimarine settings. This restriction may result from changes in seawater chemistry through time3–6, particularly from alteration in supersaturation with respect to carbonate minerals7. The largest known calcareous microbialites (several metres high) were formed in the late Precambrian8. Here we report the discovery of enormous (~40 m high) tower-like microbialites from alkaline (pH>9.7) Lake Van, eastern Anatolia. Growth is by mats of coccoid cyanobacteria (Pleurocapsa group) permineralizing in situ with aragonite and by inorganically precipitated calcite. Certain aspects of these microbialites resemble Proterozoic marine stromatolites9.

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