In vitro formation of Ca-oxalates and the mineral glushinskite by fungal interaction with carbonate substrates and seawater
- Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Department of Geology, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels
Abstract. This study investigates the in vitro formation of Ca-oxalates and glushinskite through fungal interaction with carbonate substrates and seawater as a process of biologically induced metal recycling and neo-mineral formation. The study also emphasizes the role of the substrates as metal donors. In the first experiment, thin sections prepared from dolomitic rock samples of Terwagne Formation (Carboniferous, Viséan, northern France) served as substrates. The thin sections placed in Petri dishes were exposed to fungi grown from naturally existing airborne spores. In the second experiment, fungal growth and mineral formation was monitored using only standard seawater (SSW) as a substrate. Fungal growth media consisted of a high protein/carbohydrates and sugar diet with demineralized water for irrigation. Fungal growth process reached completion under uncontrolled laboratory conditions. The newly formed minerals and textural changes caused by fungal attack on the carbonate substrates were investigated using light and scanning electron microscopy (SEM-EDX), x-ray diffraction (XRD) and Raman spectroscopy. The fungal interaction and attack on the dolomitic and seawater substrates resulted in the formation of Ca-oxalates (weddellite CaC2O4·2(H2O), whewellite (CaC2O4·(H2O)) and glushinskite MgC2O4·2(H2O) associated with the destruction of the original hard substrates and their replacement by the new minerals. Both of Ca and Mg were mobilized from the experimental substrates by fungi. This metal mobilization involved a recycling of substrate metals into newly formed minerals. The biochemical and diagenetic results of the interaction strongly marked the attacked substrates with a biological fingerprint. Such fingerprints are biomarkers of primitive life. The formation of glushinskite is of specific importance that is related, besides its importance as a biomineral bearing a recycled Mg, to the possibility of its transformation through diagenetic pathway into an Mg carbonate. This work is the first report on the in vitro formation of the mineral glushinskite through fungal interaction with carbonate and seawater substrates. Besides recording the detailed Raman signature of various crystal habits of Mg- and Ca-oxalates, the Raman spectroscopy proved two new crystal habits for glushinskite. The results of this work document the role of microorganisms as metal recyclers in biomineralization, neo-mineral formation, sediment diagenesis, bioweathering and in the production of mineral and diagenetic biomarkers. They also reveal the capacity of living fungi to interact with liquid substrates and precipitate new minerals.