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Keywords:

  • Eureka Quartzite;
  • Late Ordovician;
  • microbial mats;
  • siliciclastic stromatolite;
  • Western Laurentia

Abstract

Well-preserved siliciclastic domal stromatolites, up to 2 m wide and 1·5 m high, are found in a 10 to 15 m thick interval within the Late Ordovician Eureka Quartzite of Southern Nevada and Eastern California, USA. These stromatolites appear as either isolated features or patchy clusters that contain more than 70% by volume quartz grains; their association with planar, trough and herringbone cross-bedding suggests that they were formed in an upper shoreface environment with high hydraulic energy. In this environment, sand bars or dunes may have provided localized shelter for initial microbial mat colonization. Biostabilization and early lithification of microbial mats effectively prevented erosion during tidal flushing and storm surges, and the prevalence of translucent quartz sand grains permitted light penetration into the sediment, leading to thick microbial mat accretion and the formation of domal stromatolites. Decimetre-scale to metre-scale stromatolite domes may have served as localized shelter and nucleation sites for further microbial mat colonization, forming patchy stromatolite clusters. Enrichment of iron minerals, including pyrite and hematite, within dark internal laminae of the stromatolites indicates anaerobic mineralization of microbial mats. The occurrence of stromatolites in the Eureka Quartzite provides an example of microbial growth in highly stressed, siliciclastic sedimentary environments, in which microbial communities may have been able to create microenvironments promoting early cementation/lithification essential for the growth and preservation of siliciclastic stromatolites.