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Magnetotactic bacteria and single-domain magnetite in hemipelagic sediments

Abstract

Remanent magnetism in marine sediments has been used extensively over the past twenty years to calibrate the geological time-scale, study geomagnetic reversals and secular variation, and measure the rates of seafloor spreading. Although these sediments may contain different magnetic minerals, magnetite is the most commonly observed and magnetically stable phase, and its size, shape and post-depositional fate affect the magnetic remanence of the sediments. Biogenic magnetites are single-domain, with a high natural magnetic remanence (NRM), and have been suggested as a significant source of magnetic remanence in marine sediments. We have studied surface sediments from the Santa Barbara Basin and report the occurrence of living magnetotactic bacteria and the deposition of biogenic ultra-fine-grained, single-domain magnetite. Using a novel extraction technique, transmission electron microscopy and SQUID magnetometry, we show that these bacteria and the magnetite they produce are the major source of stable remanent magnetism in these sediments.

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Stolz, J., Chang, SB. & Kirschvink, J. Magnetotactic bacteria and single-domain magnetite in hemipelagic sediments. Nature 321, 849–851 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1038/321849a0

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