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Gunflint Chert Microbiota Revisited – Neither Stromatolites, Nor Cyanobacteria

  • Wolfgang E. Krumbein
Chapter
Part of the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology book series (COLE, volume 14)

Abstract

Silica-embedded microfossils of the Gunflint Chert (1,800 million years BP) are compared to similar systems in Western Australia, the Jurassic of Switzerland and France, the Tertiary of Warstein, Germany, and to laboratory culture experiments with iron and manganese depositing fungi-exhibiting characteristics of ‘Metallogenium symbioticum’, Eoastreon, Kakabekia and other characteristic Gunflint fossils. A comparative analysis allows the following conclusions: (1) The Gunflint Chert does not represent ancient stromatolites. (2) They are iron- and silica-depositing decay environments, with fungi as active mineralisation partners. The fungal elements were embedded and fossilised selectively by repeated invasions of hot brines rich in dissolved silica. Similar deposits are known worldwide through earth history. Many jasper, agate and chert deposits, as well as silicified wood represent fungal saprophytic decay environments. (3) Fungi are the main microbial components, sometimes associated with filamentous iron bacteria. Both fungal fragments, including sclerotia and spore-like compounds, and filamentous iron bacteria can easily be confused with cyanobacterial remains typical for ‘true stromatolites’. In most cases studied from Precambrian to laboratory materials, only 1–3% of the original fungal body is fossilised. The fungal nature of the Gunflint flora as well as the Jurassic and tertiary decay systems may thus be partially hidden and is open to misinterpretation. Branching sections and elongate thin hyphae of fungal colonies usually do not deposit mineral coatings and are, therefore, usually not preserved in the fossil record. The fungal origin of the Gunflint Chert fossils may thus remain debated.

Keywords

Thermal Water Banded Iron Formation Fungal Origin Phototroph Microorganism Decay System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geomicrobiology, ICBMCarl von Ossietzky Universität OldenburgOldenburgGermany

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