A new extraction technique now permits ultrafine magnetite crystals to be separated from a variety of deep-sea sediments. Morphologic characterization of these particles with transmission electron microscopy reveals the presence of several distinct crystal types, some of which closely resemble those formed by the magnetotactic bacteria. The apparently biogenic magnetite particles are of single-domain size and dominate the population in calcareous deep-sea sediments. Bacterially precipitated magnetite may therefore be a major source of the stable magnetic remanence in some marine sediments. These objects possibly constitute the smallest mineral fossils yet recovered from the sedimentary record.

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