Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

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)...

Abstract

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.

Copyright

Corresponding author

References

Hide All
Allwood, A.C., Walter, M.R., Burch, I.W. & Kamber, B.S. (2007). 3.43 billion-year-old stromatolite reef from the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia: Ecosystem-scale insights to early life on Earth. Precambrian Research. 158, 198227.
Awramik, S.M., Corsetti, F.A. & Shapiro, R. (2000). Stromatolites and the pre-Phanerozoic to Cambrian history of the area south east of Death Valley. Bull. San Bernardino County Mus. 47(2), 6574.
Buick, R. (2008). When did oxygenic photosynthesis evolve? Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 363, 27312743.
Cloud, P., Wright, L.A., Williams, E.G., Diehl, P. & Walter, M.R. (1974). Giant Stromatolites and associated vertical tubes from upper Proterozoic noonday dolomite, Death-Valley Region, Eastern California. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 85(12), 18691882.
Corkeron, M., Webb, G.E., Moulds, J. & Grey, K. (2012). Discriminating Stromatolite Formation Modes using Rare Earth Element Geochemistry: Trapping and Binding Versus in Situ Precipitation of Stromatolites from the Neoproterozoic Bitter Springs Formation, vol. 212–213, pp. 194206. Northern Territory, Australia: Precambrian Research.
Downs, R.T. (2006). The RRUFF Project: an integrated study of the chemistry, crystallography, Raman and infrared spectroscopy of minerals. Program and Abstracts of the 19th General Meeting of the Int. Mineralogical Association in Kobe, Japan.
Grey, K., Clarke, J.D.A. & Hickman, A.H. (2012). The proposed Dawn of Life Geotourism Trail, Marble Bar, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia – geology and evidence for early life: Geological Survey of Western Australia, Record 2012/9, 27p.
Grotzinger, J.P. & Knoll, A.H. (1999) Stromatolites in precambrian carbonates: evolutionary mileposts or environmental dipsticks? Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 27, 313358.
Hickman, A.H. (2011). Pilbara Supergroup of the East Pilbara Terrane, Pilbara Craton: updated lithostratigraphy and comments on the influence of vertical tectonics. Geological Survey of Western Australia. Annual Review 2009–2010, pp. 5059.
Hofmann, H.J., Grey, K., Hickman, A.H. & Thorpe, R. (1999). Origin of 3.45 Ga coniform stromatolites in Warrawoona Group, Western Australia. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 111, 12561262.
Howell, D.G. (1971). A stromatolite from the Proterozoic Pahrump group, eastern California. J. Paleontol. 45(1), 4851.
Lowe, D.R. (1980). Stromatolites 3,400-Myr old from the Archaean of Western Australia. Nature 284, 441443.
McKay, C.P. (1986). Exobiology and future Mars missions: the search for Mars’ earliest biosphere. Adv. Space Res. 6(12), 269285.
McKay, C.P. & Stoker, C.R. (1989). The early environment and its evolution on mars: implication for life. Rev. Geohpys. 27(2), 189214.
Raaben, M.E., Sinha, A.K. & Sharma, M. (2001). Precambrian Stromatolites of India and Russia (a Catalogue of Type-form-genera), 125 p. Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow.
Roberts, M.T. (1974). Stratigraphy and Depositional Environments of the Crystal Spring Formation, Southern Death Valley Region, California. California Division of Mines and Geology Special Report 106.
Tanaka, Z., Perry, M., Cooper, G., Tang, S., McKay, C.P. & Chen, B. (2012). Near-infrared (NIR) Raman spectroscopy of Precambrian carbonate stromatolites with post-depositional organic inclusions. Appl. Spectrosc. 66, 911916.
Tice, M.M. & Lowe, D.R. (2004). Photosynthetic microbial mats in the 3,416-Myr-old ocean. Nature 431, 549552.
Wacey, D. (2012). Earliest evidence for life on Earth: an Australian perspective. Austr. J. Earth Sci. 59(2), 153166.
Walter, M.R., Buick, R. & Dunlop, J.S.R. (1980). Stromatolites, 3,400–3,500 Myr old from the North Pole area, Western Australia. Nature 284, 443445.

Keywords

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

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)...

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.