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Microbially influenced formation of 2,724-million-year-old stromatolites


Laminated accretionary carbonate structures known as stromatolites are a prominent feature of the sedimentary record over the past 3,500 Myr (ref. 1). The macroscopic similarity to modern microbial structures has led to the inference that these structures represent evidence of ancient life1,2. However, as Archaean stromatolites only rarely contain microfossils, the possibility of abiogenic origins has been raised2. Here, we present the results of nanoscale studies of the 2,724-Myr-old stromatolites from the Tumbiana Formation (Fortescue Group, Australia) showing organic globule clusters within the thin layers of the stromatolites. Aragonite nanocrystals are also closely associated with the organic globules, a combination that is remarkably similar to the organo-mineral building blocks of modern stromatolites3,4,5. Our results support microbial mediation for the formation of the Tumbiana stromatolites, and extend the geologic record of primary aragonite by more than 2,300 Myr (ref. 6).

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Figure 1: Organic globules in the Tumbiana stromatolites.
Figure 2: Association of aragonite spheroids with organic globules (Globule m1).


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M.J. Van Kranendonk, P. Lopez-Garcia and D. Moreira are thanked for assistance during the Pilbara Drilling Project (PDP), O. Boudouma, C. Dominici, D. Neuville, Y. Wang for assistance during SEM, FIB, Raman and XRD analyses and C. Thomazo, O. Beyssac, P. Rey and M. Van Zuilen for discussion. P.P. thanks the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, the Institut des Sciences de l’Univers and the Geological Survey of Western Australia for supporting the PDP. This study was supported by grants from INSU (P.P.), Agence Nationale de la Recherche (P.P., K.B.), Région Ile-de-France (P.P.), NSF and the Stanford University (K.B. and G.E.B.). This is IPGP contribution No. 2307.

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P.P. organized the Pilbara Drilling Project. K.L. and P.P. carried out SEM, Raman, FIB and CLSM analyses. K.L. and K.B. carried out HRTEM analyses. K.B. and K.L. carried out STXM analyses. All authors wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Kevin Lepot or Pascal Philippot.

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Supplementary figures S1-S4 and supplementary table S1 (PDF 3157 kb)

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Lepot, K., Benzerara, K., Brown, G. et al. Microbially influenced formation of 2,724-million-year-old stromatolites. Nature Geosci 1, 118–121 (2008).

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