Chemotrophic microbial mats and their potential for preservation in the Rock Record

Jake V. Bailey, Victoria J. Orphan, Samantha B. Joye, Frank A. Corsetti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Putative microbialites are commonly regarded to have formed in association with photosynthetic microorganisms, such as cyanobacteria. However, many modern microbial mat ecosystems are dominated by chemotrophic bacteria and archaea. Like phototrophs, filamentous sulfur-oxidizing bacteria form large mats at the sediment/water interface that can act to stabilize sediments, and their metabolic activities may mediate the formation of marine phosphorites. Similarly, bacteria and archaea associated with the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) catalyze the precipitation of seafloor authigenic carbonates. When preserved, lipid biomarkers, isotopic signatures, body fossils, and lithological indicators of the local depositional environment may be used to identify chemotrophic mats in the rock record. The recognition of chemotrophic communities in the rock record has the potential to transform our understanding of ancient microbial ecologies, evolution, and geochemical conditions. Chemotrophic microbes on Earth occupy naturally occurring interfaces between oxidized and reduced chemical species and thus may provide a new set of search criteria to target life-detection efforts on other planets. Key Words: Carbonates-Chemolithotrophic microorganisms-Methane-Phosphorites-Stromatolites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)843-859
Number of pages17
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


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