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Stromatolites are the most intensively studied sedimentary structures built by microorganisms. They are familiar to us as the knobby carbonate domes and mats that occur in lagoons, embayments, and platforms of tropical oceans, as well as in lakes, and even in arctic climates. However, stromatolites also occur in noncarbonate sediments and sedimentary rocks. They have been recognized in siliciclastic settings, where early carbonate mineral precipitation has not occurred but biostabilization, baffling, trapping, and binding have affected the sediments and produced a varied host of microbial structures. These structures are referred to as “microbially induced sedimentary structures,” or, for short, MISS. Presently, 17 main types of MISS have been recognized, all of them differing significantly in appearance from carbonate-hosted stromatolites. The MISS, like stromatolites, record microbial activities in response to environmental parameters. Thus, certain types of MISS develop at specific depositional sites and therefore provide excellent paleoenvironmental indicators.

Pioneering studies of MISS structures were conducted by Gisela Gerdes, Wolfgang Krumbein, and Juergen Schieber in the 1970s and 1980s. Their early work showed some of the problems in recognizing MISS in thick, dominantly siliciclastic successions, especially on wide siliciclastic tidal flats. This pioneering work was followed by studies by David Paterson, Lukas Stal, John Stolz, and Alan Decho that concentrated on biostabilization and biofilms. The book on Biostabilization of Sediments (1994) was the result of the ground-breaking Mini-Microbial Mat meeting organized by Wolfgang Krumbein in 1993.

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