Magnetic properties of marine magnetotactic bacteria in a seasonally stratified coastal pond (Salt Pond, MA, USA)

Bruce M. Moskowitz, Dennis A. Bazylinski, Ramon Egli, Richard B. Frankel, Katrina J. Edwards

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74 Scopus citations


Magnetic properties of suspended material in the water columns of freshwater and marine environments provide snapshots of magnetic biomineralization that have yet to be affected by the eventual time-integration and early diagenetic effects that occur after sediment deposition. Here, we report on the magnetism, geochemistry and geobiology of uncultured magnetite- and greigite-producing magnetotactic bacteria (MB) and magnetically responsive protists (MRP) in Salt Pond (Falmouth, MA, USA), a small coastal, marine basin (∼5 m deep) that becomes chemically stratified during the summer months. At this time, strong inverse O2 and H2S concentration gradients form in the water column and a well-defined oxic-anoxic interface (OAI) is established at a water depth of about 3.5 m. At least four morphological types of MB, both magnetite and greigite producers, and several species of magnetically responsive protists are found associated with the OAI and the lower sulphidic hypolimnion. Magnetic properties of filtered water were determined through the water column across the OAI and were consistent with the occurrence of magnetite- and greigite-producing MB at different depths. Sharp peaks in anhysteretic remanent magnetization (ARM) and saturation isothermal remanent magnetization (SIRM) and single-domain (SD) values of ARM/SIRM occur within the OAI corresponding to high concentrations of MB and MRP with magnetically derived cell densities of 104-106 ml-1. Low-temperature (<300 K) remanence indicated that while only magnetite producers inhabit the OAI, both magnetite and greigite producers inhabit the sulphidic hypolimnion below the OAI. Magnetic measurements also show that the amount of Fe sequestered in magnetite magnetosomes within the OAI is no more than 3.3 per cent of the total available dissolved Fe(II) in the water column. However, below the OAI, magnetic minerals constitute a much larger fraction of the total dissolved Fe(II) ranging from 13.6 to 32.2 per cent depending on magnetic mineralogy. Most of this iron is possibly in the form of nanophase magnetic particles, possibly associated with biologically induced mineralization processes occurring below the OAI. Still, the OAI is a narrow but intense zone of SD particle production. Despite using just a small fraction of available dissolved Fe(II) in the water column for magnetosome production, the total number of MB living within an OAI, such as at Salt Pond, is all that is needed to produce the biogenic SD concentrations observed in some sediments. We also observed that Verwey transition temperatures fell within a narrow range of values between 95 and 105 K that were independent of both water depth and geochemical conditions. Reduced Verwey transition temperatures (Tv < 120 K) appear to be an intrinsic property of magnetite magnetosomes whether grown in pure laboratory cultures or from a diverse population of magnetite-producing MB in the environment. This indicates that a limited amount of oxygen non-stoichiometry (<1 per cent) is present within magnetite magnetosomes, produced either initially during magnetosome formation or subsequently as an "aging" process in living magnetite-producing MB. Therefore, reduced values of the Verwey transition in biogenic SD magnetite in sediments do not necessarily indicate diagenetic alteration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-92
Number of pages18
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • Biogenic magnetic minerals
  • Environmental magnetism
  • Rock and mineral magnetism


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