Formation and stability of oxygen-rich bubbles that shape photosynthetic mats

T. Bosak, J. W.M. Bush, M. R. Flynn, B. Liang, S. Ono, A. P. Petroff, M. S. Sim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Gas release in photic-zone microbialites can lead to preservable morphological biosignatures. Here, we investigate the formation and stability of oxygen-rich bubbles enmeshed by filamentous cyanobacteria. Sub-millimetric and millimetric bubbles can be stable for weeks and even months. During this time, lithifying organic-rich laminae surrounding the bubbles can preserve the shape of bubbles. Cm-scale unstable bubbles support the growth of centimetric tubular towers with distinctly laminated mineralized walls. In environments that enable high photosynthetic rates, only small stable bubbles will be enclosed by a dense microbial mesh, while in deep waters extensive microbial mesh will cover even larger photosynthetic bubbles, increasing their preservation potential. Stable photosynthetic bubbles may be preserved as sub-millimeter and millimeter-diameter features with nearly circular cross-sections in the crests of some Proterozoic conical stromatolites, while centrimetric tubes formed around unstable bubbles provide a model for the formation of tubular carbonate microbialites that are not markedly depleted in 13C.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-55
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Jan

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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