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Cyanobacterial spheroids and other biosignatures from microdigitate stromatolites of Mesoproterozoic Wumishan Formation in Jixian, North China

Yang, H; Chen, Z-Q; Papineau, D; (2022) Cyanobacterial spheroids and other biosignatures from microdigitate stromatolites of Mesoproterozoic Wumishan Formation in Jixian, North China. Precambrian Research , 368 , Article 106496. 10.1016/j.precamres.2021.106496.

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Abstract

Stromatolites have been widely reported from the Archean and Paleoproterozoic successions worldwide, and they could represent one of oldest life forms on Earth. Of these, a group of small stromatolites occur as microdigitate low-relief columns, and are also conspicuous in the field. However, biogenicity of these microdigitate stromatolites (MDSs) has long been disputed due to to the abundance of radial-fibrous texture and a lack of convincing microfossils. New examples of MDS are documented from the Mesoproterozoic Wumishan Formation of the Jixian area, North China. Vertically oriented fibrous fabrics are conspicuous and penetrate laminae as well as microscopic spheroids, which point to an abiotic genesis for this specific fabric. Stromatolite laminae contain abundant spheroids, typically 15–30 μm in diameter, with single or double outlines and they occur as solitary coccoid-like microfossils or in small aggregated colonies. Spheroids show strong fluorescence under both green and purple exciting lights, consistent with their composition of organic matter. Spheroids are abundant in the Wumishan stromatolites and they are categorized into two types. The first kind comprises micrite nuclei surrounded by sparitic sheaths, without nano-particle coatings. A smooth to grainy spheroidal surface defines the first kind of spheroids that also has a distinct rounded opening, which is often broken probably due to diagenesis and silicification. The second kind of spheroids is usually covered with nano-particles and lacks circular opening on surface. These spheroids possess large nuclei of single sparitic calcite coated with thin sparry sheaths. Overall, the Wumishan spheroids resemble coccoidal microorganisms reported from other Archean-Paleoproterozoic strata worldwide, but they are also better preserved. The rounded opening on spheroid surface is interpreted as division point of unicells during reproduction of the life cycle of bacteria akin to Myxococcoides grandis. Clump-like micro-particle aggregates in nuclei could represent daughter cells released from the parental envelope, similar to the reproduction process and life cycle suggested for similar spheroidal microfossils from other similar Precambrian occurrences. The Wumishan spheroids therefore may represent fossilized prokaryotes that could have contributed to construct the MDS. Moreover, filamentous microfossils are occasionally present in the coloumns of stromatolites, and they resemble filamentous cyanobacteria, but may not be major constructors of MDS due to their rarity in the buildups. Three types of nano-particles are also conspicuous: (1) putative organic relics, such as fragmented filaments and mucuslike biofilms (purported EPS), (2) organominerals, including nanoglobules, polyhedrons, and their aggregates, and (3) dumbbell-shaped nano-particle aggregates. All of these nano-particles are interpreted to be likely biogenic in origin, and many of them were found from the radial-fibrous fabrics of carbonate precipitates in the MDS, implying that some heterotrophic bacteria may have afficliated the precipitation of radial fibers in deep-time radial-fibrous carbonate precipitates. Therefore, abundant and diverse biosignatures (spheroids, tubular filaments, and nano-particles) are identified in the Wumishan MDSs, and we conclude that diverse filamentous and coccoidal micro-organismscontributed to the formation of the Wumishan stromatolites.

Type: Article
Title: Cyanobacterial spheroids and other biosignatures from microdigitate stromatolites of Mesoproterozoic Wumishan Formation in Jixian, North China
DOI: 10.1016/j.precamres.2021.106496
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.precamres.2021.106496
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Microdigitate stromatolite, coccoid-like spheroids, nano-particles, Mesoproterozoic, North China
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Earth Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10140101
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