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A likely role for anoxygenic photosynthetic microbes in the formation of ancient stromatolites


Corresponding author: D. K. Newman. Tel.: 1 626 395 6790; fax: 1 626 688 0621; e-mail:


Although cyanobacteria are the dominant primary producers in modern stromatolites and other microbialites, the oldest stromatolites pre-date geochemical evidence for oxygenic photosynthesis and cyanobacteria in the rock record. As a step towards the development of laboratory models of stromatolite growth, we tested the potential of a metabolically ancient anoxygenic photosynthetic bacterium to build stromatolites. This organism, Rhodopseudomonas palustris, stimulates the precipitation of calcite in solutions already highly saturated with respect to calcium carbonate, and greatly facilitates the incorporation of carbonate grains into proto-lamina (i.e. crusts). The appreciable stimulation of the growth of proto-lamina by a nonfilamentous anoxygenic microbe suggests that similar microbes may have played a greater role in the formation of Archean stromatolites than previously assumed.

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