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

Brasier, A.T. et al. (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. (doi: 10.1016/j.precamres.2019.04.025)

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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:Articles
Additional Information:ATB acknowledges the hospitality of the North West Highlands Geopark in July 2017. DW acknowledges funding from the Australian Research Council via the Future Fellowship scheme (FT 140100321).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Boyce, Professor Adrian
Authors: Brasier, A.T., Dennis, P.F., Still, J., Parnell, J., Culwick, T., Brasier, M.D., Wacey, D., Bowden, S.A., Crook, S., Boyce, A.J., and Muirhead, D.K.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Journal Name:Precambrian Research
ISSN (Online):1872-7433
Published Online:03 May 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 Elsevier B.V.
First Published:First published in Precambrian Research 328: 309-320
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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