Vesicular Basalts as a Niche for Microbial Life

  • Barbara Cavalazzi
  • Frances Westall
  • Sherry L. Cady
Part of the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology book series (COLE, volume 24)


The ongoing discovery of traces of microbial communities in locations on Earth where conditions are, or were, hostile to life suggests that unknown microbial ecosystems and habitats are yet to be detected. Volcanic environments on the ocean floor provide an important potential habitat for microbial life. Evidence of microbial activity and traces within the primary glassy rinds of basalts have revealed a highly complex microhabitat. Recent findings demonstrate that microbial activity and biodiversity in sub-seafloor volcanic rocks are also more differentiated than previously recognized. In addition to the glassy rinds of subsea pillow basalts, microbial ecosystems that have the potential to preserve traces of life in the geological record have been recognized in vesicular basalts. Here, we present a brief review of the evidence for endolithic microorganisms in volcanic basaltic rocks with an emphasis on the relatively poorly studied vesicular basalts that host microbial ecosystems. These types of habitats are of particular interest in the search for life on rocky, water-bearing terrestrial planets.


Volcanic Rock Pillow Lava Oceanic Basalt Microbial Ecosystem Authigenic Mineral 
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.


5. Acknowledgements

We gratefully thank Le Studium, Institute for Advanced Studies, Region Centre, Orléans, France, and the NASA Exobiology Program and NASA Astrobiology Institute. Thanks are due to Nisha Mathew, University of the Witwatersrand, who kindly reviewed the English version of the chapter. BC would like to thanks Paula F. Martínez, Johannesburg.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Cavalazzi
    • 1
  • Frances Westall
    • 2
  • Sherry L. Cady
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeologyUniversity of Johannesburg, APK CampusJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, CNRSOrléans cedex 2France
  3. 3.Department of GeologyPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA

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