Detecting ancient life: Investigating the nature and origin of possible stromatolites and associated calcite from a one billion year old lake

Brasier, Alex, Dennis, Paul ORCID:, Still, J, Parnell, John, Culwick, T, Brasier, Martin, Wacey, D, Bowden, S, Crook, Simon, Boyce, Adrian and Muirhead, D (2019) Detecting ancient life: Investigating the nature and origin of possible stromatolites and associated calcite from a one billion year old lake. Precambrian Research, 328. pp. 309-320. ISSN 0301-9268

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Putative stromatolites and associated carbonate minerals in 1.1 Ga Stoer Group lacustrine sedimentary rocks were analysed to deduce their likely origins. Potential stromatolite examples included finely laminated and sometimes wrinkled carbonate-siliciclastic rocks of the Clachtoll Formation at Clachtoll and Bay of Stoer, and laminated limestone domes of the Poll a’Mhuilt Member (Bay of Stoer Formation) from Enard Bay. Petrography shows that the lamination and wrinkling of Clachtoll Formation specimens can most logically be explained by abiotic siliclastic sedimentary processes, namely rippling and soft-sediment deformation probably related to de-watering. Electron backscatter diffraction shows that the carbonate in these laminated Clachtoll Formation specimens was calcite, and petrography combined with clumped isotope palaeothermometry indicates it was likely to be part syn-depositional and part burial diagenetic in origin. The laminated domes of the Poll a’Mhuilt Member are shown to comprise clasts of limestone interlayered with clay, quartz, Na-rich feldspars and micas. Cathodoluminescence revealed the limestone clasts to be composite and built of sub-grains that must have been derived from an earlier, potentially Palaeoproterozoic, carbonate unit. Support for this hypothesis comes from clumped isotope palaeotemperature measurements that indicate the limestone clasts were precipitated or recrystallized under higher temperature conditions than the burial diagenetic calcite found in the Clachtoll Formation. Raman spectra of an organic carbon particle within a laminated dome of the Poll a’Mhuilt Member at Enard Bay are consistent with the organic carbon having been re-worked from the ∼2 Ga Loch Maree Group, and we speculate that this might also be true of the calcite. Microbial fossils are well known from elsewhere in the Stoer Group, but no conclusive examples were found within the thin-sections examined herein. No conclusive evidence was found to suggest that any of the examined putative stromatolites were biogenic, leading to the conclusion that they are best considered stromatolite-like sedimentary rocks (pseudostromatolites).

Item Type: Article
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Geosciences
Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 07 May 2019 14:30
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2022 22:39
DOI: 10.1016/j.precamres.2019.04.025


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