Habit of Bacterially Induced Precipitates of Calcium Carbonate: Examples from Laboratory Experiments and Recent Sediments

  • Chris Buczynski
  • Henry S. Chafetz
Part of the Frontiers in Sedimentary Geology book series (SEDIMENTARY)


Bacteria induce the precipitation of calcium carbonate in the laboratory and in nature by altering their chemical environment. Increasingly, more geologists are recognizing the possibility that bacterially induced precipitates may form significant mineral deposits. Unfortunately, there are currently no criteria by which they can be recognized in Recent sediments, or in the rock record.

Cultures of aerobic and facultative bacteria from cyanobacterial mats on Andros Island, Bahamas, and Baffin Bay, Texas, induced the precipitation of calcium carbonate under controlled conditions in more than 125 experiments. Crusts, the largest features formed, are composed of 5 to 200 µm diameter bundles that are, in turn, composed of numerous individual crystals. The smallest observed features are 0.1 to 0.4 µm spheres and rods of which some individual crystals and crystal bundles are composed.

Crystal bundles resembling rhombohedra, tetragonal disphenoids, tetragonal dipyramids, and calcite dumbbells appear to be uniquely bacterial in origin, and they have all been observed in Recent sediments. Swollen rods, discs, curved dumbbells, and 50 to 200 µm optically continuous crystals resembling brushes may be uniquely bacterial in origin; however, they have neither been reported by other laboratories nor observed in natural settings. Presence of any of these forms in Recent sediments should be taken as strong evidence for bacterial influence. Spheres and aragonite dumbbells have also been observed in natural environments; however, they are not always bacterial in origin.


Calcium Carbonate Marine Bacterium Recent Sediment Individual Crystal Sedimentary Petrology 
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© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Buczynski
  • Henry S. Chafetz

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