Thrombolites (from Ancient Greek θρόμβος thrómbos meaning "clot" and λῐ́θος líthos meaning "stone") are clotted accretionary structures formed in shallow water by the trapping, binding, and cementation of sedimentary grains by biofilms of microorganisms, especially cyanobacteria.
Thrombolites have a clotted structure without the laminae of stromatolites. Each clot within a thrombolite mound is a separate cyanobacterial colony. The clots are on the scale of millimetres to centimetres and may be interspersed with sand, mud or sparry carbonate.Clots that make up thrombolites are called thromboids to avoid confusion with other clotted textures. The larger clots make up more than 40% of a thrombolite's volume and each clot has a complex internal structure of cells and rimmed lobes resulting primarily from calcification of the cyanobacterial colony. Very little sediment is found within the clots because the main growth method is calcification rather than sediment trapping. There is active debate about the size of thromboids, with some seeing thromboids as a macrostructural feature (domical hemispheroid) and others viewing thromboids as a mesostructural feature (random polylobate and subspherical mesoclots).
There are two main types of thrombolites:
This type of thrombolites contain clots that are dominantly composed of calcified microfossil components. These clots do not have a fixed form or size and can expand vertically. Furthermore, burrows and trilobite fragments can exist in these thrombolites.
This type of thrombolites is composed of small openings that trap fine-grained sediments. They are also known "thrombolitic-stromatolites" due to their close relation with the same composition of stromatolites. Because they trap sediment, their formation is linked to the rise of algal-cyanobacterial mats.
Thrombolites can be distinguished from microbialites or stromatolites by their massive size, which is characterized by macroscopic clotted fabric. Stromatolites are similar but consist of layered accretions. Thrombolites appear with random patterns that can be seen by the naked eye, while stromatolites has the texture of built up layers.
Calcified microbe thrombolites occur in sedimentary rocks from the shallow water ocean during the Neoproterozoic and early Palaeozoic.
Thrombolites are rare on modern Earth, but exist in areas of groundwater discharge with high concentration of nutrients and organic ions, such as shallow seawater, freshwater, and saltwater lakes, and streams.Thrombolites are now found in only a few places in the world, including:
Limestone is a type of carbonate sedimentary rock which is the main source of the material lime. It is composed mostly of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of CaCO3. Limestone forms when these minerals precipitate out of water containing dissolved calcium. This can take place through both biological and nonbiological processes, though biological processes, such as the accumulation of corals and shells in the sea, have likely been more important for the last 540 million years. Limestone often contains fossils which provide scientists with information on ancient environments and on the evolution of life.
Sedimentary rocks are types of rock that are formed by the accumulation or deposition of mineral or organic particles at Earth's surface, followed by cementation. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause these particles to settle in place. The particles that form a sedimentary rock are called sediment, and may be composed of geological detritus (minerals) or biological detritus. The geological detritus originated from weathering and erosion of existing rocks, or from the solidification of molten lava blobs erupted by volcanoes. The geological detritus is transported to the place of deposition by water, wind, ice or mass movement, which are called agents of denudation. Biological detritus was formed by bodies and parts of dead aquatic organisms, as well as their fecal mass, suspended in water and slowly piling up on the floor of water bodies. Sedimentation may also occur as dissolved minerals precipitate from water solution.
Stromatolites or stromatoliths are layered sedimentary formations (microbialite) that are created mainly by photosynthetic microorganisms such as cyanobacteria, sulfate-reducing bacteria, and Pseudomonadota. These microorganisms produce adhesive compounds that cement sand and other rocky materials to form mineral "microbial mats". In turn, these mats build up layer by layer, growing gradually over time. A stromatolite may grow to a meter or more. Fossilized stromatolites provide important records of some of the most ancient life. Today the living forms are rare.
A reef is a ridge or shoal of rock, coral or similar relatively stable material, lying beneath the surface of a natural body of water. Many reefs result from natural, abiotic (non-living) processes such as deposition of sand or wave erosion planing down rock outcrops. However, reefs such as the coral reefs of tropical waters are formed by biotic (living) processes, dominated by corals and coralline algae. Artificial reefs such as shipwrecks and other man-made underwater structures may occur intentionally or as the result of an accident, and are sometimes designed to increase the physical complexity of featureless sand bottoms to attract a more diverse range of organisms. Reefs are often quite near to the surface, but not all definitions require this.
Phosphorite, phosphate rock or rock phosphate is a non-detrital sedimentary rock that contains high amounts of phosphate minerals. The phosphate content of phosphorite (or grade of phosphate rock) varies greatly, from 4% to 20% phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5). Marketed phosphate rock is enriched ("beneficiated") to at least 28%, often more than 30% P2O5. This occurs through washing, screening, de-liming, magnetic separation or flotation. By comparison, the average phosphorus content of sedimentary rocks is less than 0.2%. The phosphate is present as fluorapatite Ca5(PO4)3F typically in cryptocrystalline masses (grain sizes < 1 μm) referred to as collophane-sedimentary apatite deposits of uncertain origin. It is also present as hydroxyapatite Ca5(PO4)3OH or Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2, which is often dissolved from vertebrate bones and teeth, whereas fluorapatite can originate from hydrothermal veins. Other sources also include chemically dissolved phosphate minerals from igneous and metamorphic rocks. Phosphorite deposits often occur in extensive layers, which cumulatively cover tens of thousands of square kilometres of the Earth's crust.
Algal mats are one of many types of microbial mat that forms on the surface of water or rocks. They are typically composed of blue-green cyanobacteria and sediments. Formation occurs when alternating layers of blue-green bacteria and sediments are deposited or grow in place, creating dark-laminated layers. Stromatolites are prime examples of algal mats. Algal mats played an important role in the Great Oxidation Event on Earth some 2.3 billion years ago. Algal mats can become a significant ecological problem, if the mats grow so expansive or thick as to disrupt the other underwater marine life by blocking the sunlight or producing toxic chemicals.
A carbonate platform is a sedimentary body which possesses topographic relief, and is composed of autochthonic calcareous deposits. Platform growth is mediated by sessile organisms whose skeletons build up the reef or by organisms which induce carbonate precipitation through their metabolism. Therefore, carbonate platforms can not grow up everywhere: they are not present in places where limiting factors to the life of reef-building organisms exist. Such limiting factors are, among others: light, water temperature, transparency and pH-Value. For example, carbonate sedimentation along the Atlantic South American coasts takes place everywhere but at the mouth of the Amazon River, because of the intense turbidity of the water there. Spectacular examples of present-day carbonate platforms are the Bahama Banks under which the platform is roughly 8 km thick, the Yucatan Peninsula which is up to 2 km thick, the Florida platform, the platform on which the Great Barrier Reef is growing, and the Maldive atolls. All these carbonate platforms and their associated reefs are confined to tropical latitudes. Today's reefs are built mainly by scleractinian corals, but in the distant past other organisms, like archaeocyatha or extinct cnidaria were important reef builders.
Oncolites are sedimentary structures composed of oncoids, which are layered structures formed by cyanobacterial growth. Oncolites are very similar to stromatolites, but, instead of forming columns, they form approximately spherical structures. The oncoids often form around a central nucleus, such as a shell fragment, and a calcium carbonate structure is deposited by encrusting microbes. Oncolites are indicators of warm waters in the photic zone, but are also known in contemporary freshwater environments. These structures rarely exceed 10 cm in diameter.
A microbial mat is a multi-layered sheet of microorganisms, mainly bacteria and archaea, or bacteria alone. Microbial mats grow at interfaces between different types of material, mostly on submerged or moist surfaces, but a few survive in deserts. A few are found as endosymbionts of animals.
Microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS) are primary sedimentary structures formed by the interaction of microbes with sediment and physical agents of erosion, deposition, and transportation. The structures commonly form when microbial mats are preserved in the sedimentary geological record. There are 17 main types of macroscopic and microscopic MISS. Of those, wrinkle structures and microbial mat chips are the most abundant in the fossil record. Other MISS include sinoidal structures, polygonal oscillation cracks, multidirected ripple marks, erosional remnants and pockets, or gas domes.
John P. Grotzinger is the Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology at California Institute of Technology and chair of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. His works primarily focus on chemical and physical interactions between life and the environment. In addition to biogeological studies done on Earth, Grotzinger is also active in research into the geology of Mars and has made contributions to NASA's Mars Exploration Program.
Wetheredella is a genus of calcimicrobes initially described from the Silurian of England, and subsequently reported from the Upper Ordovician to the end of the Carboniferous periods; its reefs are stated as being characteristic of the Ordovician-Silurian periods. Its taxonomic position is uncertain; it has been suggested to be a foraminiferan, a cyanobacterium or simply treated as a microproblematicum; Vachard & Cózar (2010) refer it to the Algospongia, a similarly controversial group that they assigned to the Protista but later, per Vachard, 2021, to Algae incertae sedis, in its own family and suborder (Wetheredellina) in the order Moravamminida. The genus is named in honor of the geologist Edward Wethered.
Shallow water marine environment refers to the area between the shore and deeper water, such as a reef wall or a shelf break. This environment is characterized by oceanic, geological and biological conditions, as described below. The water in this environment is shallow and clear, allowing the formation of different sedimentary structures, carbonate rocks, coral reefs, and allowing certain organisms to survive and become fossils.
The Nama Group is a 125,000 square kilometres (48,000 sq mi) megaregional Vendian to Cambrian group of stratigraphic sequences deposited in the Nama foreland basin in central and southern Namibia. The Nama Basin is a peripheral foreland basin, and the Nama Group was deposited in two early basins, the Zaris and Witputs, to the north, while the South African Vanrhynsdorp Group was deposited in the southern third. The Nama Group is made of fluvial and shallow-water marine sediments, both siliciclastic and carbonate. La Tinta Group in Argentina is considered equivalent to Nama Group.
Microbialite is a benthic sedimentary deposit made of carbonate mud that is formed with the mediation of microbes. The constituent carbonate mud is a type of automicrite ; therefore, it precipitates in situ instead of being transported and deposited. Being formed in situ, a microbialite can be seen as a type of boundstone where reef builders are microbes, and precipitation of carbonate is biotically induced instead of forming tests, shells or skeletons.
Automicrite is autochthonous micrite, that is, a carbonate mud precipitated in situ and made up of fine-grained calcite or aragonite micron-sized crystals. It precipitates on the sea floor or within the sediment as an authigenic mud thanks to physicochemical, microbial, photosynthetic and biochemical processes. It has peculiar fabrics and uniform mineralogical and chemical composition.
Tanja Bosak is a Croatian-American experimental geobiologist who is currently an associate professor in the Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Science department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her awards include the Subaru Outstanding Woman in Science Award from the Geological Society of America (2007), the James B. Macelwane Medal from the American Geophysical Union (2011), and was elected an AGU fellow (2011). Bosak is recognized for her work understanding stromatolite genesis, in addition to her work in broader geobiology and geochemistry.
Laguna Negra is a lake in the Catamarca Province of Argentina. It lies on the Puna high plateau next to two other lakes and salt flats. The lake is less than 2 metres deep and forms a rough rectangle with a surface of 8.6 square kilometres (3.3 sq mi). Laguna Negra loses its water through evaporation, and is replenished through surface runoff and groundwater which ultimately originate to a large part from snowmelt. The waters of the lake are salty.
Nora Noffke is an American geologist who is a professor in the Department of Ocean and Earth Sciences, Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, USA. Noffke's research focuses on the sedimentology of biofilm forming sedimentary structures in modern aquatic environments, where clastic deposits dominate. Such structures occur in the fossil record as well. Her studies are interdisciplinary combining sedimentology with microbiology, geochemistry, and mineralogy.
Jamie S. Foster is an American astrobiologist, microbiologist, and academic. She is a professor at the Department of Microbiology and Cell Science, and Genetics and Genomes Graduate Program at the University of Florida.