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Fossilization of Bacteria

Fossilization of bacteria

Studies of fossilization of bacteria provide an indication of the age of ancient bacteria and of the rate of geological and geochemical processes on ancient Earth. Fossils of cyanobacteria or "blue-green algae" have been recovered from rocks that are nearly 3.5 million years old. Bacteria known as magnetobacteria form very small crystals of a magnetic compound inside the cells. These crystals have been found inside rock that is two billion years old.

The fossilization process in cyanobacteria and other bacteria appears to depend on the ability of the bacteria to trap sediment and metals from the surrounding solution. Cyanobacteria tend to grow as mats in their aquatic environment. The mats can retain sediment. Over time and under pressure the sediment entraps the bacteria in rock. As with other living organisms, the internal structure of such bacteria is replaced by minerals , notably pyrite or siderite (iron carbonate). The result, after thousands to millions of years, is a replica of the once-living cell.

Other bacteria that elaborate a carbohydrate network around themselves also can become fossilized. The evidence for this type of fossilization rests with laboratory experiments where bacteria are incubated in a metal-containing solution under conditions of temperature and pressure that attempt to mimic the forces found in geological formations. Experiments with Bacillus subtilis demonstrated that the bacteria act as a site of precipitation for silica, the ferric form of iron, and of elemental gold. The binding of some of the metal ions to available sites within the carbohydrate network then acts to drive the precipitation of unstable metals out of solution and onto the previously deposited metal. The resulting cascade of precipitation can encase the entire bacterium in metallic species. On primordial Earth, this metal binding may have been the beginning of the fossilization process.

The deposition of metals inside carbohydrate networks like the capsule or exopolysaccharide surrounding bacteria is a normal feature of bacterial growth. Indeed, metal deposition can change the three-dimensional arrangement of the carbohydrate strands so as to make the penetration of antibacterial agents through the matrix more difficult. In an environmentsuch as occurs in the lungs of a cystic fibrosis patientthis micro-fossilization of bacteria confers a survival advantage to the cells.

In contrast to fossils of organisms such as dinosaurs, the preservation of internal detail of microorganisms seldom occurs. Prokaryotes have little internal structure to preserve. However, the mere presence of the microfossils is valuable, as they can indicate the presence of microbial life at that point in geological time.

Bacteria have been fossilized in amber, which is fossilized tree resin. Several reports have described the resuscitation of bacteria recovered from amber as well as bacteria recovered from a crystal in rock that is millions of years old. Although these claims have been disputed, a number of microbiologists assert that the care exercised by the experimenters lends increases the validity of their studies.

In the late 1990s a meteorite from the planet Mars was shown to contain bodies that appeared very similar to bacterial fossils that have been found in rocks on Earth. Since then, further studies have indicated that the bodies may have arisen by inorganic (non-living) processes. Nonetheless, the possibility that these bodies are the first extraterrestrial bacterial fossils has not been definitively ruled out.

See also Atmospheric chemistry; Carbon dating; Dating methods; Evolution, evidence of; Fossil record; Fossils and fossilization; Geochemistry; Miller-Urey experiment; Murchison meteorite; Paleoclimate; Petroleum microbiology; Phanerozoic Eon; Precambrian; Rate factors in geologic processes

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"Fossilization of Bacteria." World of Earth Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Fossilization of Bacteria." World of Earth Science. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fossilization-bacteria-0

Fossilization of Bacteria

Fossilization of bacteria

Studies of fossilization of bacteria provide an indication of the age of ancient bacteria. Fossils of cyanobacteria or "blue-green algae" have been recovered from rocks that are nearly 3.5 million years old. Bacteria known as magnetobacteria form very small crystals of a magnetic compound inside the cells. These crystals have been found inside rock that is two billion years old.

The fossilization process in cyanobacteria and other bacteria appears to depend on the ability of the bacteria to trap sediment and metals from the surrounding solution. Cyanobacteria tend to grow as mats in their aquatic environment. The mats can retain sediment. Over time and under pressure the sediment entraps the bacteria in rock. As with other living organisms, the internal structure of such bacteria is replaced by minerals, notably pyrite or siderite (iron carbonate). The result, after thousands to millions of years, is a replica of the once-living cell.

Other bacteria that elaborate a carbohydrate network around themselves also can become fossilized. The evidence for this type of fossilization rests with laboratory experiments where bacteria are incubated in a metal-containing solution under conditions of temperature and pressure that attempt to mimic the forces found in geological formations. Experiments with Bacillus subtilis demonstrated that the bacteria act as a site of precipitation for silica, the ferric form of iron, and of elemental gold. The binding of some of the metal ions to available sites within the carbohydrate network then acts to drive the precipitation of unstable metals out of solution and onto the previously deposited metal. The resulting cascade of precipitation can encase the entire bacterium in metallic species. On primordial Earth, this metal binding may have been the beginning of the fossilization process.

The deposition of metals inside carbohydrate networks like the capsule or exopolysaccharide surrounding bacteria is a normal feature of bacterial growth . Indeed, metal deposition can change the three-dimensional arrangement of the carbohydrate strands so as to make the penetration of antibacterial agents through the matrix more difficult. In an environmentsuch as occurs in the lungs of a cystic fibrosis patientthis micro-fossilization of bacteria confers a survival advantage to the cells.

In contrast to fossils of organisms such as dinosaurs, the preservation of internal detail of microorganisms seldom occurs. Prokaryotes have little internal structure to preserve. However, the mere presence of the microfossils is valuable, as they can indicate the presence of microbial life at that point in geological time.

Bacteria have been fossilized in amber, which is fossilized tree resin. Several reports have described the resuscitation of bacteria recovered from amber as well as bacteria recovered from a crystal in rock that is millions of years old. Although these claims have been disputed, a number of microbiologists assert that the care exercised by the experimenters lends increases the validity of their studies.

In the late 1990s a meteorite from the planet Mars was shown to contain bodies that appeared similar to bacterial fossils that have been found in rocks on Earth. Since then, further studies have indicated that the bodies may have arisen by inorganic (non-living) processes. Nonetheless, the possibility that these bodies are the first extraterrestrial bacterial fossils has not been definitively ruled out.

See also Bacterial surface layers; Biogeochemical cycles; Glycocalyx

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"Fossilization of Bacteria." World of Microbiology and Immunology. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fossilization of Bacteria." World of Microbiology and Immunology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fossilization-bacteria

"Fossilization of Bacteria." World of Microbiology and Immunology. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fossilization-bacteria