A Caltech Library Service

Chemotrophic Microbial Mats and Their Potential for Preservation in the Rock Record

Bailey, Jake V. and Orphan, Victoria J. and Joye, Samantha B. and Corsetti, Frank A. (2009) Chemotrophic Microbial Mats and Their Potential for Preservation in the Rock Record. Astrobiology, 9 (9). pp. 843-859. ISSN 1557-8070.

PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Putative microbialites are commonly regarded to have formed in association with photosynthetic microorganisms, such as cyanobacteria. However, many modern microbial mat ecosystems are dominated by chemotrophic bacteria and archaea. Like phototrophs, filamentous sulfur-oxidizing bacteria form large mats at the sediment/water interface that can act to stabilize sediments, and their metabolic activities may mediate the formation of marine phosphorites. Similarly, bacteria and archaea associated with the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) catalyze the precipitation of seafloor authigenic carbonates. When preserved, lipid biomarkers, isotopic signatures, body fossils, and lithological indicators of the local depositional environment may be used to identify chemotrophic mats in the rock record. The recognition of chemotrophic communities in the rock record has the potential to transform our understanding of ancient microbial ecologies, evolution, and geochemical conditions. Chemotrophic microbes on Earth occupy naturally occurring interfaces between oxidized and reduced chemical species and thus may provide a new set of search criteria to target life-detection efforts on other planets.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Orphan, Victoria J.0000-0002-5374-6178
Joye, Samantha B.0000-0003-1610-451X
Additional Information:© 2009 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. We thank Bo Barker Jørgensen, Heide Schulz-Vogt, Tina Treude, Jens Greinert, Chris House, Sarah Greene, Beth Orcutt, Katrina Edwards, and Ian R. MacDonald for contributing or for helping to acquire images used in this manuscript. We also thank Heide Schulz-Vogt, Tomaso Bontognali, and four anonymous reviewers for helpful comments that greatly improved this manuscript. J.V.B. is supported by the Agouron Institute Geobiology Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (Grant # AI-F-GB12.09.2). The Gulf of Mexico, Eel River Basin, and Costa Rica Margin images were obtained during projects funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (OCE-0085549 to S.B.J.; MCB-0348492 to V.J.O.; and OCE-0825791 to V.J.O.). Images from the Loihi Seamount were taken during cruise MGLN10MV, Jason Dive J2-242 (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) as part of the Iron Microbiology Observatory Project.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Agouron InstituteAI-F-GB12.09.2
Woods Hole Oceanographic InstituteJ2242
Subject Keywords:Carbonates; Chemolithotrophic microorganisms; Methane; Phosphorites; Stromatolites
Issue or Number:9
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20100105-130209242
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Jake V. Bailey, Victoria J. Orphan, Samantha B. Joye, Frank A. Corsetti. Astrobiology. November 2009, 9(9): 843-859. doi:10.1089/ast.2008.0314.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:17062
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:06 Jan 2010 17:19
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:18

Repository Staff Only: item control page