Articles | Volume 5, issue 3
07 May 2008
 | 07 May 2008

Miniaturized biosignature analysis reveals implications for the formation of cold seep carbonates at Hydrate Ridge (off Oregon, USA)

T. Leefmann, J. Bauermeister, A. Kronz, V. Liebetrau, J. Reitner, and V. Thiel

Abstract. Methane-related carbonates from Hydrate Ridge typically show several macroscopically distinguishable mineral phases, namely whitish aragonite, lucent aragonite, and gray micrite. The relationship of these phases to particular microorganisms or biogeochemical processes is as yet unclear. We used a miniaturized biomarker technique on mg samples, combined with factor analysis and subsequent electron microprobe analysis, to study lipid biomarkers and chemical compositions of the individual phases. This allows us to identify particular mechanisms involved in the formation of the different carbonate precipitates. Our combined analysis of biomarkers and petrographic traits shows that most of the lipids related to the anaerobic oxidation of methane (>90% by weight) are concentrated within only a minor compartment (~20% by volume) of the Hydrate Ridge carbonates, the whitish aragonite. The patterns indicate that the whitish aragonite represents fossilized biofilms of methanotrophic consortia containing mainly archaea of the ANME-2 group and sulfate reducing bacteria, whereas the precipitation of the lucent aragonite may have lacked the immediate proximity of microorganisms during formation. By contrast, the gray micrite formed by incorporation of allochthonous organic and inorganic matter during carbonate precipitation induced by the anaerobic oxidation of methane involving ANME-1 archaea.

Final-revised paper