We formed calcite crusts in the presence and absence of the heterotrophic bacterium Desulfovibrio desulfuricans strain G20 to investigate microbial morphological signatures in fast-accreting carbonate precipitates. Submicrometer- to micrometer-sized pores (micropores) were present and ubiquitous in the G20 crusts but absent in abiotically precipitated crusts. Bacterial micropores resemble inclusions under transmitted light, but have distinct size, biological shapes and patterns (swirling or dendritic) and are distributed differently from common fluid inclusions. We observed similar porosity in both modern and ancient carbonate crusts of putative biotic origin. Our experiments support the microbial origin of micropores and help define specific criteria whereby to recognize these features as biosignatures in the rock record.

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