A daily rhythm of microbial processes, in terms of sub-mm order lamination, was identified for a microbe-rich aragonite travertine formed at a low-flow site of the Nagano-yu Hot Spring in Southwestern Japan. Continuous observation and sampling clearly showed that the lamination consisted of diurnal microbe-rich layers (M-layers) and nocturnal crystalline layers (C-layers). The M-layers originated from biofilm formed by growth and upward migration of filamentous cyanobacteria related to Microcoleus sp., which can rapidly glide and secrete extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). During the daytime, cyanobacterial biofilm development inhibited aragonite precipitation on the travertine surface due to the calcium-binding ability of EPS. After sunset, aragonite precipitation started on the surface where aerobic heterotrophic bacteria decomposed EPS, which induced precipitation of micritic crystals. This early stage of C-layer formation was followed by abiotic precipitation of fan-shaped aragonite aggregates. Despite their major role in lamina formation, the cyanobacteria were readily degraded within 6-10 days after embedding, and the remaining open spaces in the M-layers were sparsely filled with crystal clots. These lamina-forming processes were different from those observed in a high-flow site where the travertine has a dense texture of aragonite crystals. The microbial travertine at Nagano-yu is similar to some Precambrian stromatolites in terms of in situ mineral precipitation, regular sub-mm order lamination, and arrangement of filamentous microbes; therefore, the lamination of these stromatolites possibly occur with a daily rhythm. The microbial processes demonstrated in this study may revise the interpretation of ancient stromatolite formation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Chemistry
- Environmental Science(all)
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)