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ABSTRACT

Middle Devonian (Givetian) pillow basalt and inter-pillow breccia from the Rheinisches Schiefergebirge in Germany were found to contain putative biogenic filaments that indicate that life once proliferated within these volcanic rocks. Mineralized filaments are found in carbonate amygdules (vesicles filled by carbonate cement) in the volcanic rock, where they started to form on the internal surface of the once water-filled vesicles. Biogenicity of the filaments is indicated by (1) their size and shape resembling modern microorganisms including a constant diameter along the length of curved filaments, (2) their independence of crystal faces or cleavage planes, (3) branching patterns reminiscent of modern microorganisms, and (4) their spatial clustering and preferential occurrence close to the margin of pillows and in the inter-pillow breccias. A time lag between the deposition of pillow basalt and the activity of endoliths is revealed by the sequence of carbonate cements filling the amygdules. The putative filamentous microorganisms thrived after the formation of early fibrous rim cement, but before later equant calcite spar filled most of the remaining porosity. Microbial clay authigenesis analogous to the encrustation of prokaryotes in modern iron-rich environments led to the preservation of filaments. The filaments predominantly consist of the clay minerals chamosite and illite. Having dwelled in water-filled vesicles, the Devonian basalt-hosted filaments apparently represent cryptoendoliths. This finding suggests that a previously unrecognized niche for life exists within volcanic rock.