Pleistocene-age methane seep carbonates from the Eel River Basin, California contain aggregate-like structures composed of tightly-packed hollow spheres that morphologically resemble syntrophic archaeal-bacterial consortia known to catalyze the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). Tetragonal microstructures also present in the carbonates resemble seep-endemic Methanosarcinales cell clusters. Despite morphological similarities to the seep-endemic microbes that likely mediated the authigenesis of Eel River Basin carbonates and sulfides, detailed petrographic, SEM, and magnetic microscopic imaging, remanence rock magnetism, laser Raman, and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, suggest that these microstructures are not microfossils, but rather mineral structures that result from the diagenetic alteration of euhedral Fe-sulfide framboids. Electron microscopy shows that during diagenesis, reaction rims composed of Fe oxide form around framboid microcrystalites. Subsequent dissolution of greigite or pyrite crystals leaves behind hollow cell-like casings (external molds) - a transformation that occurs on timescales of ∼100 kyr or less. Despite their superficial resemblance to morphologically-distinctive extant microbes in local sediments, the presence of acellular precursor grains, as well as of partially-altered transitional forms, complicate the interpretation of these and other framboidal microstructures that have been reported from the rock record.
- Sulfate-reducing bacteria