Archean Stromatolites as Microbial Archives

  • H. J. Hofmann
Chapter

Abstract

Stromatolites are morphologically circumscribed accretionary growth structures with a primary lamination that is, or may be, biologically influenced (biogenic). They are found in Archean sedimentary carbonate rocks, almost always associated with extensive volcanic sequences. Thirty-two occurrences have been reported from n small regional clusters representing the world’s principal preserved Archean cratons: North America 16, Africa 7, Australia 5, Asia 3, and Europe s; none are presently known from Archean rocks of South America and Antarctica; less than two dozen of the occurrences are viewed as definitely Archean and stromatolitic. The earliest stromatolite records date back to nearly 3.5 Ga, and their worldwide distribution and abundance increase as time progresses.

Morphological types include structures with flat, convex-up, concave-up, and globoidal laminae; stacking patterns producing nodular, columnar (unbranched as well as branched), and oncoidal forms are represented. The observed diameters of the structures show a gradual increase in size as the stratigraphic column is ascended, spread over two orders of magnitude in geon 34 (centimetric to decimetric), but ranging over six orders of magnitude by geon 25 (sub-millimetric to dekametric). Unlike Proterozoic stromatolites, most are developed in limestones rather than dolostones, with sideritic/ankeritic and cherty types also present. Microfossils are only very rarely preserved. Ministromatolites with radial-fibrous microstructure, probably almost exclusively the result of chemical precipitation, developed after 3.0 Ga, as did mesoscopic aragonite/calcite crystal fans, indicating carbonate supersaturation of ambient Meso-and Neoarchean ocean waters.

Keywords

Zircon Calcite Petrol Dolomite Microbe 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Altermann W, Wotherspoon JMcD (1995) The carbonates of the Transvaal and Griqualand West sequences of the Kaapvaal craton, with special reference to the Lime Acres limestone deposit. Miner Deposita 30: 24–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Awramik SM (1991) Archaean and Proterozoic stromatolites. In: Riding R (ed), Calcareous algae and stromatolites. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 289–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Awramik SM (1992) The history and significance of stromatolites. In: Schidlowski M et al. (eds) Early Organic Evolution: implications for mineral and energy resources. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 435–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bertrand-Sarfati J, Eriksson KA (1977) Columnar stromatolites from the Early Proterozoic Schmidtsdrift Formation, northern Cape Province, South Africa. Part 1. Systematic and diagnostic features. Palaeontol Afr 20: 1–26Google Scholar
  5. Beukes NJ (1987) Facies relationships, depositional environments and diagenesis in a major Early Proterozoic stromatolitic carbonate platform to basinal sequence, Campbellrand Subgroup, Transvaal Supergroup, southern Africa. Sediment Geol 54: 1–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowring SA, Williams IS, Compston W (1989) 3.986 Ga gneisses from the Slave province, Northwest Territories, Canada. Geology 17: 971–975CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buick R (1984) Carbonaceous filaments from North Pole, western Australia: are they fossil bacteria in Archaean stromatolites? Precambrian Res 24: 157–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buick R, Groves DI, Dunlop JSR (1995) Abiological origin of described stromatolites older than 3.2 Ga: comment and reply. Comment. Geology 23: 191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buick R, Dunlop JSR, Groves DI (1981) Stromatolite recognition in ancient rocks: an appraisal of irregularly laminated structures in an Early Archaean chert-barite unit from North Pole, Western Australia. Alcheringa 5: 161–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burne RV, Moore LS (1987) Benthic microbial communities and microbialites. Baas Becking Geobiological Laboratory, Annu Rep 1985, pp 10–12Google Scholar
  11. Cady SL, Farmer J, Des Marais DJ, Blake DF (1995) Columnar and spicular geyserites from Yellowstone National Park, WY; scanning and transmission electron microscopy evidence for biogenicity. Geol Soc Am, Abstr Progr 27 (6): 305Google Scholar
  12. Cloud PE Jr, Semikhatov MA (1969) Proterozoic stromatolite zonation. Am J Sci 267: 1017–1061CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cloud P (1972) A working model of the primitive Earth. Am J Sci 272: 537–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cloud PE Jr (1976) Beginnings of biospheric evolution and their biogeochemical consequences. Paleobiol 2: 351–387Google Scholar
  15. Compston W, Pidgeon RT (1986) Jack Hills, evidence of more very old detrital zircons in Western Australia. Nature 321: 766–769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. de la Hunty L.E (5963) The geology of the manganese deposits of Western Australia. Geol Sury Western Aus Bull n6Google Scholar
  17. de la Hunty LE (1964) Balfour-Downs, Western Australia. Geol Sury Western Australia. 1:250,000 Geological Series, Sheet SF/51–9, Explanatary NotesGoogle Scholar
  18. Farmer JD, Des Marais DJ (1994) Exopaleontology and the search for a fossil record on Mars. Lunar Planet Sci Conf 25: 367–368Google Scholar
  19. Froude DO, Ireland TR, Kinny PD, Williams IS, Compston W, Williams IR, Myers JS (1983) Ion microprobe identification of 4100–4200 Myr-old terrestrial zircons. Nature 304: 616–618CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goodwin AM (1991) Precambrian geology - the dynamic evolution of the continental crust. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Grey K (1984) Abiogenic stromatoloids from the Warrawoona Group (Early Archaean), Shaw River, Marble Bar, 1:250 000 Sheet area. Geol Sury Western Aust, Palaeontology Report 74 /84Google Scholar
  22. Grotzinger JP (1989) Facies and evolution of Precambrian carbonate depositional systems: emergence of the modern platform archetype. In: Crevello PD, Wilson JL, Sarg JF, Reed JF (eds) Controls on carbonate platform and basin development. Soc Econ Paleont Mineral, Spec Publ 4479–106Google Scholar
  23. Hofmann HJ (1969) Attributes of stromatolites. Geol Sury Can Pap 69–39Google Scholar
  24. Hofmann HJ (1971) Precambrian fossils, pseudofossils, and problematica in Canada. Geol Sury Can Bull 189Google Scholar
  25. Hofmann HJ (1972) Precambrian remains in Canada: fossils, dubiofossils, and pseudofossils. Int Geol Cong 24th Sess, Montreal, Proc Sect 1: 20–30Google Scholar
  26. Hofmann HJ (1973) Stromatolites: characteristics and utility. Earth-Sci Rev 9: 339–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hofmann HJ (1976) Precambrian microflora, Belcher Islands, Can- ada: significance and systematics. J Paleontol 50: 1040–1073Google Scholar
  28. Hofmann HJ (1989) Size classification of stromatolites. Stromatolite Newslett 14: 36Google Scholar
  29. Hofmann HJ (1990) Precambrian time units and nomenclature–the geon concept. Geology 18: 340–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hofmann HJ, Grey K, Hickman AH, Thorpe RI (1999) Origin of 3.45 Ga coniform stromatolites in Warrawoona Group, Western Autralia. Geol Soc Amer Bull 11: 1256–1262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. James HL (1978) Subdivision of the Precambrian–a brief review and a report on recent decisions by the Subcommission on Precambrian Stratigraphy. Precambrian Res 7: 193–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jolliffe AW (1955) Geology and iron ores of Steep Rock Lake. Econ Geol 50: 373–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Knoll AH, Golubic S (1979) Anatomy and taphonomy of a Precambrian algal stromatolite. Precambrian Res 10: 115–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lanier WP (1986) Approximate growth rates of Early Proterozoic microstromatolites as deduced by biomass productivity. Palaios 6: 525–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lanier WP (1988) Structure and morphogenesis of microstromatolites from the Transvaal Supergroup, South Africa. J Sediment Petrol 58: 89–99Google Scholar
  36. Lawson AC (1912) The geology of Steeprock Lake, Ontario. Geol Sury Can Mem 28: 7–15Google Scholar
  37. Lowe DR (1980) Stromatolites 3,400-Myr old from the Archaean of Western Australia. Nature 284: 441–443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lowe DR (1994) Abiological origin of described stromatolites older than 3.2 Ga. Geology 22: 387–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lowe DR (1995) Abiological origin of described stromatolites older than 3.2 Ga: comment and reply. Reply. Geology 23: 191–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lumbers SB, Card KD (1991) Chronometric subdivision of the Archean. Geol Assoc. Canada, Geology 20(3)56–57Google Scholar
  41. Macgregor AM (1941) A pre-Cambrian limestone in Southern Rhodesia. Geol Soc S Afr Trans 43: 9–15Google Scholar
  42. Nisbet EG (1987) The Beginning of life, Chapter 4. In: Nisbet EG (ed) The young earth–an introduction to Archaean geology, Allen and Unwin, Boston, pp 101–145Google Scholar
  43. Raaben ME (1969) Columnar stromatolites and Late Precambrian stratigraphy. Am J Sci 267: 1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rothpletz A (1916) Über die systematische Deutung und die strati-graphische Stellung der ältesten Versteinerungen Europas und Nordamerikas mit bedonderer Berücksichtigung der Cryptozoen und Oolithe. Über Cryptozoon, Eozoon, und Atikokania. Bayerische Akad Wissenschaften, Abh Math-Physik K128 (4): 92Google Scholar
  45. Schopf JW (1994) The oldest known records of life: Early Archean stromatolites, microfossils, and organic matter. In: Bengtson S (ed) Early life on Earth. Nobel Symposium 84. Columbia Univ Press, New York, pp 193–206Google Scholar
  46. Simonson BM, Schubel KA, Hassler SW (1993) Carbonate sedimentology of the early Precambrian Hamersley Group of Western Australia. Precambrian Res 60: 287–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sumner DY, Bowring SA (1996) U-Pb geochronologic constraints on deposition of the Campbellrand Subgroup, Transvaal Supergroup, South Africa. Precambrian Res 79: 25–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sumner DY, Grotzinger JP (1996a) Were kinetics of Archean calcium carbonate precipitation related to oxygen concentration? Geology 24: 119–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sumner DY, Grotzinger JP (1996b) Herringbone calcite - petrography and environmental significance. J Sedimentary Res, Sect A A66: 419–429Google Scholar
  50. Truswell JF, Eriksson KA (1973) Stromatolite associations and their palaeoenvironmental significance: a re-appraisal of a Lower Proterozoic locality from the Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Sediment Geol 10: 1–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Truswell JF, Eriksson KA (1975) A palaeoenvironmental interpretation of the Early Proterozoic Malmani Dolomite from Zwartkops, South Africa. Precambrian Res 2: 277–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Walcott CD (1912) Notes on fossils from limestone of Steeprock series, Ontario, Canada. Geol Sury Can, Mem 28: 16–23Google Scholar
  53. Walter MR (1972) Stromatolites and the biostratigraphy of the Australian Precambrian and Cambrian. Palaeontol Assoc Spec Pap Palaeontol, no 11Google Scholar
  54. Walter MR (ed) (1976) Stromatolites. Developments in Sedimentology 20. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  55. Walter MR (1978) Recognition and significance of Archaean stromatolites. In: Archaean cherty metasediments:their sedimentol-Google Scholar
  56. ogy, micropalaeontology, biogeochemistry, and significance to mineralization. Univ Western Aust, Spec Publ 2a-10Google Scholar
  57. Walter MR (1983) Archean stromatolites: evidence of the Earth’s earliest benthos. In: Schopf JW (ed) Earth’s earliest biosphere–its origin and evolution. Princeton Univ Press, Princeton, pp 187–213Google Scholar
  58. Walter MR (1994) Stromatolites: the main geological source of information on the evolution of the early benthos. In: Bengtson S (ed) Early life on Earth. Nobel Symposium 84. Columbia Univ Press, New York, pp 270–286Google Scholar
  59. Walter MR, Buick R, Dunlop JSR (1980) Stromatolites 3,400–3,500 Myr old from the North Pole area, Western Australia. Nature 248443–445Google Scholar
  60. Walter MR, Grotzinger JP, Schopf JW (1992) Proterozoic stromatolites. In: Schopf JW, Klein C (eds) The Proterozoic biosphere–a multidisciplinary study. Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge, pp 253–260Google Scholar
  61. Wilson AH, Versfeld JA (1994) The early Archean Nondweni green-stone belt, southern Kaapvaal Craton, South Africa, Part I. Stratigraphy, sedimentology, mineralization and depositional environment. Precambrian Res 67: 243–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Winter H de la R (1963) Algal stromatolites in the sediments of the Ventersdorp System. Geol Soc S Afr Trans 65: 115–121Google Scholar
  63. Young RB (1928) Pressure phenomena in the dolomitic limestones of the Campbell Rand Series in Griqualand West. Geol Soc S Afr Trans 31: 157–165Google Scholar
  64. Young RB (1933) The occurrence of stromatolitic or algal limestone in the Campbell Rand Series of Griqualand West. Geol Soc S Afr Trans 35: 29–36Google Scholar
  65. Young RB (1934) Conditions of deposition of the Dolomite Series. Geol Soc S Afr Trans 36: 121–135Google Scholar
  66. Young RB (1935) A comparison of certain stromatolitic rocks in the Dolomite Series of South Africa with modern algal sediments in the Bahamas. Geol Soc S Afr Trans 37: 153–162Google Scholar
  67. Young RB (1940) Note on an unusual type of concretionary structure in limestones of the Dolomite Series. Geol Soc S Afr Trans 43: 23–25Google Scholar
  68. Young RB (1940) Further notes on algal structures in the Dolomite Series. Geol Soc S Afr Trans 43: 17–21Google Scholar
  69. Young RB (1944) The domical-columnar structure and other minor deformations in the Dolomite Series. Geol Soc S Afr Trans 46: 91–105Google Scholar
  70. Young RB, Mendelssohn E (1949) Domed algal growths in the Dolomite Series of South Africa, with associated fossil remains. Geol Soc S Afr Trans 51: 53–62Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. J. Hofmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeologyUniversity of MontrealMontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations