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Microbial-mat-associated tephra of the Archean Moodies Group, Barberton greenstone belt (BGB), South Africa; resemblance to potential biostructures and ecological implications

Inga Kohler and Christoph Heubeck
Microbial-mat-associated tephra of the Archean Moodies Group, Barberton greenstone belt (BGB), South Africa; resemblance to potential biostructures and ecological implications
South African Journal of Geology (June 2019) 122 (2): 221-236

Abstract

Documenting evidence of fossil microbial life on early Earth is made difficult by the paucity of suitable Archean sedimentary rocks, their common metamorphic overprint, the small outcrop areas, and the small size of the objects of interest. Although a large number of putative microfossils dating back as far as 3700 Ma have been described, the syngeneity and biogenicity of many occurrences is debated, and some of the proposed fossils have been found to be either contaminants or abiotic artefacts. The approximately 3200 Ma Moodies Group of the Barberton Greenstone Belt (BGB), South Africa, contains locally abundant and remarkably well-preserved microbial mats which show indirect evidence of photosynthetic activity. They also contain microstructures which strongly resemble remains of microbial cells. Detailed morphological and geochemical analyses, however, show that these structures mostly represent fragments of volcanic tephra. Our study demonstrates that opaque microstructures within microbial mats can potentially be misidentified as microfossils even when a strict protocol is followed. It also posits the question to which degree volcanic air-borne fertilization contributed to the remarkable growth rate, high mechanical tenacity and wide extent of these oldest tidal microbial mats in siliciclastic environments.


ISSN: 1012-0750
EISSN: 1996-8590
Serial Title: South African Journal of Geology
Serial Volume: 122
Serial Issue: 2
Title: Microbial-mat-associated tephra of the Archean Moodies Group, Barberton greenstone belt (BGB), South Africa; resemblance to potential biostructures and ecological implications
Affiliation: Friedrich-Schiller University Jena, Department of Geosciences, Jena, Germany
Pages: 221-236
Published: 201906
Text Language: English
Publisher: Bureau for Scientific Publications, Pretoria, South Africa
References: 81
Accession Number: 2019-081240
Categories: Stratigraphy
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 2 tables, geol. sketch maps
S27°00'00" - S18°00'00", E18°00'00" - E30°00'00"
Country of Publication: South Africa
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2020, American Geosciences Institute. Abstract, Copyright, Geological Society of South Africa. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States
Update Code: 201943
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