Life and Liesegang: Outcrop-Scale Microbially Induced Diagenetic Structures and Geochemical Self-Organization Phenomena Produced by Oxidation of Reduced Iron

Richard M. Kettler, David B. Loope, Karrie A. Weber, Paul B. Niles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Kanab Wonderstone is sandstone (Shinarump Member, Chinle Formation) that is cemented and stained with iron oxide. The iron-oxide cementation and staining in these rocks have been considered examples of the Liesegang phenomenon, but we will show that they comprise a microbially induced structure. The spacing of bands of iron-oxide stain follow the Jablczynski spacing law (wherein the spacing between bands of iron-oxide stain increases as one traverses a series of bands) characteristic of Liesegang. Bands of iron-oxide cement exhibit more variable spacing and exhibit a weak but significant correlation between band thickness and distance between bands of cement. The pore-filling cement contains morphotypes that are similar in size and habit to those exhibited by microaerophilic iron-oxidizing bacteria. Other disseminated iron-oxide mineralization occurs as rhombohedra interpreted to be pseudomorphs after siderite. We interpret the cement to be produced by microbially mediated oxidation of siderite (a typical early diagenetic mineral in fluvial sandstones). Iron-oxidizing bacteria colonized the redox interface between siderite-cemented sand and porous sandstone. Microbes oxidized aqueous Fe(II), generating acid that caused siderite dissolution. The iron-oxide cement is the microbial product of a geochemical drive for organization; whereas the iron-oxide stain is true Liesegang. Together, they comprise a distinctive microbially induced structure with high preservation potential. Key Words: Biosignatures - Iron oxides - Diagenesis - Iron-oxidizing bacteria - Shinarump. Astrobiology 15, 616-636.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)616-636
Number of pages21
JournalAstrobiology
Volume15
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

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