Morphological adaptations of 3.22 Ga-old tufted microbial mats to Archean coastal habitats (Moodies Group, Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa)
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© 2015 Elsevier B.V. Microbial life was well established and widespread by the Paleoarchean; however, the degree of evolutionary advancement such as microbial motility, intra- and inter-species interactions, phototropism, or oxygenic photosynthesis by that time remains highly debated. The 3.22 Ga Moodies Group in the Barberton Greenstone Belt (BGB, South Africa) are Earth's oldest well-preserved siliciclastic tidal deposits. They exhibit a unique assemblage of microbial mats, providing an excellent opportunity to decipher the morphological adaptations of microbial communities to different paleoenvironmental settings. The fossil mats are preserved as kerogenous laminations (0.5-1. mm thick) that can be traced laterally for ~15. km in a ~1000. m-thick succession of fine- to coarse-grained tidal sandstones and conglomerates. We here present a detailed stratigraphic and depositional facies analysis, documenting the association of the three principal mat morphotypes with specific environmental settings: (1) planar-type in coastal floodplain, (2) wavy-type in intertidal, and (3) tufted-type in upper inter- to supratidal facies. All mat types indicate a flourishing phototrophic biota; moreover, the tufted morphology suggests an intricate level of coordinated growth commonly known from cyanobacterial mats in modern environments.
author list (cited authors)
Homann, M., Heubeck, C., Airo, A., & Tice, M. M.