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n this paper, we review ~140 yr of investigations about pelagosite, a usually black aragonitic encrustation with a vitreous luster that forms in the splash zone of Mediterranean rocky coasts. Prior to the mid-1920s, the geologic community considered pelagosite to be a separate mineral of uncertain composition, but then in 1926, Italian mineralogist Ettore Onorato determined that pelagosite has the same structure as aragonite (orthorhombic CaCO3), and also that it contained cells of blue-green algae (i.e., cyanobacteria). Once pelagosite was declassed from the status of a mineral, and its name was eliminated from catalogues and textbooks, Onorato’s documentation of the cyanobacterial cells contained in this encrustation seems to have fallen into almost total oblivion during the rest of the twentieth century. We revisited pelagosite in its original type locality, the remote southern Adriatic island of Pelagosa (today’s Croatian island of Palagruža), as well as in the Dalmatian island of Hvar. Using modern analytical methods and techniques, we redefined the mineralogical and geochemical composition of pelagosite, the nature and significance of its microbial content, and the origin of its pisolitic “tree-ring” internal structure, which probably reflects cyclic climate changes.

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