Instant attraction: Clay authigenesis in fossil fungal biofilms

Therese Sallstedt*, Magnus Ivarsson, Henrik Drake, Henrik Skogby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewResearchpeer-review

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Clay authigenesis associated with the activity of microorganisms is an important process for biofilm preservation and may provide clues to the formation of biominerals on the ancient Earth. Fossilization of fungal biofilms attached to vesicles or cracks in igneous rock, is characterized by fungal-induced clay mineralization and can be tracked in deep rock and deep time, from late Paleoproterozoic (2.4 Ga), to the present. Here we briefly review the current data on clay mineralization by fossil fungal biofilms from oceanic and continental subsurface igneous rock. The aim of this study was to compare the nature of subsurface fungal clays from different igneous settings to evaluate the importance of host rock and ambient redox conditions for clay speciation related to fossil microorganisms. Our study suggests that the most common type of authigenic clay associated with pristine fossil fungal biofilms in both oxic (basaltic) and anoxic (granitic) settings are montmorillonite-like smectites and confirms a significant role of fungal biofilms in the cycling of elements between host rock, ocean and secondary precipitates. The presence of life in the deep subsurface may thus prove more significant than host rock geochemistry in directing the precipitation of authigenic clays in the igneous crust, the extent of which remains to be fully understood.

Original languageEnglish
Article number369
JournalGeosciences (Switzerland)
Issue number9
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 1. Sep 2019



  • Clay authigenesis
  • Cryptoendoliths
  • Fossil fungi
  • Igneous crust
  • Subseafloor habitats

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