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The structure and chemical layering of Proterozoic stromatolites in the Mojave Desert

  • Susanne Douglas (a1) (a2), Meredith E. Perry (a3) (a4), William J. Abbey (a5), Zuki Tanaka (a4) (a6), Bin Chen (a4) (a6) and Christopher P. McKay (a4)...


The Proterozoic carbonate stromatolites of the Pahrump Group from the Crystal Spring formation exhibit interesting layering patterns. In continuous vertical formations, there are sections of chevron-shaped stromatolites alternating with sections of simple horizontal layering. This apparent cycle of stromatolite formation and lack of formation repeats several times over a vertical distance of at least 30 m at the locality investigated. Small representative samples from each layer were taken and analysed using X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray fluorescence (XRF), environmental scanning electron microscopy – energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry, and were optically analysed in thin section. Optical and spectroscopic analyses of stromatolite and of non-stromatolite samples were undertaken with the objective of determining the differences between them. Elemental analysis of samples from within each of the four stromatolite layers and the four intervening layers shows that the two types of layers are chemically and mineralogically distinct. In the layers that contain stromatolites the Ca/Si ratio is high; in layers without stromatolites the Ca/Si ratio is low. In the high Si layers, both K and Al are positively correlated with the presence and levels of Si. This, together with XRD analysis, suggested a high K-feldspar (microcline) content in the non-stromatolitic layers. This variation between these two types of rocks could be due to changes in biological growth rates in an otherwise uniform environment or variations in detrital influx and the resultant impact on biology. The current analysis does not allow us to choose between these two alternatives. A Mars rover would have adequate resolution to image these structures and instrumentation capable of conducting a similar elemental analysis.


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The structure and chemical layering of Proterozoic stromatolites in the Mojave Desert

  • Susanne Douglas (a1) (a2), Meredith E. Perry (a3) (a4), William J. Abbey (a5), Zuki Tanaka (a4) (a6), Bin Chen (a4) (a6) and Christopher P. McKay (a4)...


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