Magnetite biomineralization in ferruginous waters and early Earth evolution

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Kohen Witt Bauer, James Martin Byrne, Paul Kenward, Rachel Simister, Celine Michiels, Andre Friese, Aurele Vuillemin, Cynthia Henny, Sulung Nomosatryo, Jens Kallmeyer


Burial of large quantities of magnetite (Fe(II)Fe(III)2O4) in iron formations (IFs) likely contributed to the protracted oxidation of Earth’s surface during the Precambrian Eons. Magnetite can form through a diversity of biological and abiotic pathways and its preservation in IFs may thus be variably interpreted as the result of some combination of these processes. Such interpretations thus give rise to divergent pictures of the Precambrian Earth system and models for its evolution through time. New knowledge on the contribution of specific magnetite formation pathways is, therefore, needed to accurately tether our conceptual and numerical models to the geologic record. To constrain pathways of magnetite formation under ferruginous conditions, we conducted geochemical and multi-method microspectroscopic analyses on particles obtained from the water columns and sediments of ferruginous lakes Matano and Towuti, in Indonesia. We find that biologically reactive Fe(III) mineral phases are entirely reduced in the anoxic waters of both lakes, leading to the formation of primary authigenic magnetite, directly in the water column. This water column magnetite often takes conspicuous framboidal forms, which given the link to microbial Fe(III) reduction, may provide a biological signature on early Earth and by extension, other planetary bodies. The consumption of more biologically reactive forms of Fe(III) and the resulting delivery of primary magnetite to underlying sediments controls sediment redox budgets and implies that primary magnetite formation could have been a principal mode of Fe delivery to IFs. Combined, the removal of Fe from Earth’s surface through magnetite biomineralization and subsequent burial in IFs, suggests that seawater chemistry and the microbially mediated reactions that cause magnetite formation played key roles in Earth system evolution and in setting the pace for planetary oxidation through the Precambrian Eons.



Biogeochemistry, Earth Sciences, Geochemistry, Physical Sciences and Mathematics



Published: 2020-01-09 05:51


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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