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Liane G. Benning, Earth and Biosphere Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK,
Vernon R. Phoenix, Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Guelph, Canada,
Bruce W. Mountain, Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Wairakei Research Centre, Taupo, New Zealand
The contribution of micro-organisms to amorphous silica precipitation in modern geothermal hot-spring environments has been the topic of intense study in the last three to four decades. Here, we present a review on the field and laboratory studies that have specifically addressed bacterial silicification, with a special focus on cyanobacterial silicification. Studies related to the biogenic silicification processes in diatoms, radiolarians and sponges are not discussed, despite the fact that, in the modern oceans (which are undersaturated with respect to silica), the diagenetic ‘ripening’ of such biogenic silica controls the global silica cycle (Dixit et al., 2001). It is well-known that the amorphous silica in these organisms (particularly in size, shape and orientation) is controlled primarily by the templating functions of glycoproteins and polypeptides (e.g. silaffin and silicatein). For information on these issues, we refer the reader to the extensive reviews by Simpson & Volcani (1981), Kröger et al. (1997, 2000), Baeuerlein (2000), Perry & Keeling-Tucker (2000), Hildebrand & Wetherbee (2003) and Perry (2003). In addition, in terrestrial environments, a large pool of amorphous silica is cycled through higher plants (grasses and trees) that are believed to use silicification as a protection mechanism against pathogens and insects. Information on these processes can be found in the papers by Chen & Lewin (1969), Sangster & Hodson (1986) and Perry & Fraser (1991).
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