Enigmatic reticulated filaments in subsurface granite


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In the last few years, geomicrobiologists have focused their researches on the nature and origin of enigmatic reticulated filaments reported in modern and fossil samples from limestone caves and basalt lava tubes. Researchers have posed questions on these filaments concerning their nature, origin, chemistry, morphology, mode of formation and growth. A tentative microbial origin has been elusive since these filaments are found as hollow tubular sheaths and could not be affiliated to any known microorganism. We describe the presence of similar structures in a 16th century granite tunnel in Porto, Northwest Portugal. The reticulated filaments we identify exhibit fine geometry surface ornamentation formed by cross-linked Mn-rich nanofibres, surrounded by a large amount of extracellular polymeric substances. Within these Mn-rich filaments we report for the first time the occurrence of microbial cells.