, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 263–274 | Cite as

Bacterial diversity and carbonate precipitation in the giant microbialites from the highly alkaline Lake Van, Turkey

  • Purificación López-García
  • Józef Kazmierczak
  • Karim Benzerara
  • Stephan Kempe
  • François Guyot
  • David Moreira
Original Paper


Lake Van harbors the largest known microbialites on Earth. The surface of these huge carbonate pinnacles is covered by coccoid cyanobacteria whereas their central axis is occupied by a channel through which neutral, relatively Ca-enriched, groundwater flows into highly alkaline (pH ~9.7) Ca-poor lake water. Previous microscopy observations showed the presence of aragonite globules composed by rounded nanostructures of uncertain origin that resemble similar bodies found in some meteorites. Here, we have carried out fine-scale mineralogical and microbial diversity analyses from surface and internal microbialite samples. Electron transmission microscopy revealed that the nanostructures correspond to rounded aragonite nanoprecipitates. A progressive mineralization of cells by the deposition of nanoprecipitates on their surface was observed from external towards internal microbialite areas. Molecular diversity studies based on 16S rDNA amplification revealed the presence of bacterial lineages affiliated to the Alpha-, Beta- and Gammaproteobacteria, the Cyanobacteria, the Cytophaga-Flexibacter-Bacteroides (CFB) group, the Actinobacteria and the Firmicutes. Cyanobacteria and CFB members were only detected in surface layers. The most abundant and diverse lineages were the Firmicutes (low GC Gram positives). To the exclusion of cyanobacteria, the closest cultivated members to the Lake Van phylotypes were most frequently alkaliphilic and/or heterotrophic bacteria able to degrade complex organics. These heterotrophic bacteria may play a crucial role in the formation of Lake Van microbialites by locally promoting carbonate precipitation.


16S rRNA Aragonite Alkaliphile Biomineralization Electron microscopy Soda lake Phylogenetic analysis Stromatolite 



This work was financed by an ATIP grant of the CNRS to Purificación López-García and the French GDR Exobiologie. Support of the Foundation for Polish Science to Józef Kazmierczak and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to Stephan Kempe is acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Purificación López-García
    • 1
  • Józef Kazmierczak
    • 2
  • Karim Benzerara
    • 3
    • 5
  • Stephan Kempe
    • 4
  • François Guyot
    • 3
  • David Moreira
    • 1
  1. 1.Unité d’Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, UMR CNRS 8079Université Paris-SudOrsay CedexFrance
  2. 2.Institute of PaleobiologyPolish Academy of SciencesWarsawPoland
  3. 3.Laboratoire de Minéralogie-CristallographieUMR 7590 CNRS and Institut de Physique du Globe de ParisParis CedexFrance
  4. 4.Institut für Angewandte GeowissenschaftenTechnische Universität DarmstadtDarmstadtGermany
  5. 5.Surface & Aqueous Geochemistry Group, Department of Geological and Environmental SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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