• Biogenic magnetic minerals;
  • Environmental magnetism;
  • Rock and mineral magnetism


Stable single-domain (SD) magnetite formed intracellularly by magnetotactic bacteria is of fundamental interest in sedimentary and environmental magnetism. In this study, we studied the time course of magnetosome growth and magnetosome chain formation (0–96 hr) in Magnetospirillum magneticum AMB-1 by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) observation and rock magnetism. The initial non-magnetic cells were microaerobically batch cultured at 26 °C in a modified magnetic spirillum growth medium. TEM observations indicated that between 20 and 24 hr magnetosome crystals began to mineralize simultaneously at multiple sites within the cell body, followed by a phase of rapid growth lasting up to 48 hr cultivation. The synthesized magnetosomes were found to be assembled into 3–5 subchains, which were linearly aligned along the long axis of the cell, supporting the idea that magnetosome vesicles were linearly anchored to the inner membrane of cell. By 96 hr cultivation, 14 cubo-octahedral magnetosome crystals in average with a mean grain size of ∼44.5 nm were formed in a cell. Low-temperature (10–300 K) thermal demagnetization, room-temperature hysteresis loops and first-order reversal curves (FORCs) were conducted on whole cell samples. Both coercivity (4.7–18.1 mT) and Verwey transition temperature (100–106 K) increase with increasing cultivation time length, which can be explained by increasing grain size and decreasing non-stoichiometry of magnetite, respectively. Shapes of hysteresis loops and FORCs indicated each subchain behaving as an ‘ideal’ uniaxial SD particle and extremely weak magnetostatic interaction fields between subchains. Low-temperature thermal demagnetization of remanence demonstrated that the Moskowitz test is valid for such linear subchain configurations (e.g. δFCZFC > 2.0), implying that the test is applicable to ancient sediments where magnetosome chains might have been broken up into short chains due to disintegration of the organic scaffold structures after cell death. These findings provide new insights into magnetosome biomineralization of magnetotactic bacteria and contribute to better understanding the magnetism of magnetofossils in natural environments.