Ancient microbial activity recorded in fracture fillings from granitic rocks (Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory, Sweden)

Christine Marcelle Heim, J. Lausmaa, P. Sjövall, J. Toporski, T. Dieing, K. Simon, B. T. Hansen, A. Kronz, G. Arp, J. Reitner, V. Thiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Fracture minerals within the 1.8-Ga-old Äspö Diorite (Sweden) were investigated for fossil traces of subterranean microbial activity. To track the potential organic and inorganic biosignatures, an approach combining complementary analytical techniques of high lateral resolution was applied to drill core material obtained at -450m depth in the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory. This approach included polarization microscopy, time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS), confocal Raman microscopy, electron microprobe (EMP) and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). The fracture mineral succession, consisting of fluorite and low-temperature calcite, showed a thin (20-100μm), dark amorphous layer lining the boundary between the two phases. Microscopic investigations of the amorphous layer revealed corrosion marks and, in places, branched tubular structures within the fluorite. Geochemical analysis showed significant accumulations of Si, Al, Mg, Fe and the light rare earth elements (REE) in the amorphous layer. In the same area, ToF-SIMS imaging revealed abundant, partly functionalized organic moieties, for example, C xH y +, C xH yN +, C xH yO +. The presence of such functionalized organic compounds was corroborated by Raman imaging showing bands characteristic of C-C, C-N and C-O bonds. According to its organic nature and the abundance of relatively unstable N- and O- heterocompounds, the organic-rich amorphous layer is interpreted to represent the remains of a microbial biofilm that established much later than the initial cooling of the Precambrian host rock. Indeed, δ 13C, δ 18O and 87Sr/ 86Sr isotope data of the fracture minerals and the host rock point to an association with a fracture reactivation event in the most recent geological past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-297
Number of pages18
JournalGeobiology
Volume10
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012

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hard rock
microbial activity
Sweden
rocks
minerals
mass spectrometry
fluorite
image analysis
rock
ions
host rock
microscopy
rare earth elements
mineral
corrosion
atomic absorption spectrometry
calcite
organic compounds
biofilm
lasers

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

Cite this

Heim, Christine Marcelle ; Lausmaa, J. ; Sjövall, P. ; Toporski, J. ; Dieing, T. ; Simon, K. ; Hansen, B. T. ; Kronz, A. ; Arp, G. ; Reitner, J. ; Thiel, V. / Ancient microbial activity recorded in fracture fillings from granitic rocks (Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory, Sweden). In: Geobiology. 2012 ; Vol. 10, No. 4. pp. 280-297.
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Heim, CM, Lausmaa, J, Sjövall, P, Toporski, J, Dieing, T, Simon, K, Hansen, BT, Kronz, A, Arp, G, Reitner, J & Thiel, V 2012, 'Ancient microbial activity recorded in fracture fillings from granitic rocks (Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory, Sweden)', Geobiology, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 280-297. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1472-4669.2012.00328.x

Ancient microbial activity recorded in fracture fillings from granitic rocks (Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory, Sweden). / Heim, Christine Marcelle; Lausmaa, J.; Sjövall, P.; Toporski, J.; Dieing, T.; Simon, K.; Hansen, B. T.; Kronz, A.; Arp, G.; Reitner, J.; Thiel, V.

In: Geobiology, Vol. 10, No. 4, 01.07.2012, p. 280-297.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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T1 - Ancient microbial activity recorded in fracture fillings from granitic rocks (Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory, Sweden)

AU - Heim, Christine Marcelle

AU - Lausmaa, J.

AU - Sjövall, P.

AU - Toporski, J.

AU - Dieing, T.

AU - Simon, K.

AU - Hansen, B. T.

AU - Kronz, A.

AU - Arp, G.

AU - Reitner, J.

AU - Thiel, V.

PY - 2012/7/1

Y1 - 2012/7/1

N2 - Fracture minerals within the 1.8-Ga-old Äspö Diorite (Sweden) were investigated for fossil traces of subterranean microbial activity. To track the potential organic and inorganic biosignatures, an approach combining complementary analytical techniques of high lateral resolution was applied to drill core material obtained at -450m depth in the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory. This approach included polarization microscopy, time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS), confocal Raman microscopy, electron microprobe (EMP) and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). The fracture mineral succession, consisting of fluorite and low-temperature calcite, showed a thin (20-100μm), dark amorphous layer lining the boundary between the two phases. Microscopic investigations of the amorphous layer revealed corrosion marks and, in places, branched tubular structures within the fluorite. Geochemical analysis showed significant accumulations of Si, Al, Mg, Fe and the light rare earth elements (REE) in the amorphous layer. In the same area, ToF-SIMS imaging revealed abundant, partly functionalized organic moieties, for example, C xH y +, C xH yN +, C xH yO +. The presence of such functionalized organic compounds was corroborated by Raman imaging showing bands characteristic of C-C, C-N and C-O bonds. According to its organic nature and the abundance of relatively unstable N- and O- heterocompounds, the organic-rich amorphous layer is interpreted to represent the remains of a microbial biofilm that established much later than the initial cooling of the Precambrian host rock. Indeed, δ 13C, δ 18O and 87Sr/ 86Sr isotope data of the fracture minerals and the host rock point to an association with a fracture reactivation event in the most recent geological past.

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