Organic matter preservation and incipient mineralization of microtubules in 120 Ma basaltic glass

Matthew R.M. Izawa, James J. Dynes, Neil R. Banerjee, Roberta L. Flemming, Lachlan C.W. MacLean, Callum J. Hetherington, Sergei Matveev, Gordon Southam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Hollow tubular structures in subaqueously-emplaced basaltic glass may represent trace fossils caused by microbially-mediated glass dissolution. Mineralized structures of similar morphology and spatial distribution in ancient, metamorphosed basaltic rocks have widely been interpreted as ichnofossils, possibly dating to ∼3.5 Ga or greater. Doubts have been raised, however, regarding the biogenicity of the original hollow tubules and granules in basaltic glass. In particular, although elevated levels of biologically-important elements such as C, S, N, and P as well as organic compounds have been detected in association with these structures, a direct detection of unambiguously biogenic organic molecules has not been accomplished. In this study, we describe the direct detection of proteins associated with tubular textures in basaltic glass using synchrotron X-ray spectromicroscopy. Protein-rich organic matter is shown to be associated with the margins of hollow and partly-mineralized tubules. Furthermore, a variety of tubule-infilling secondary minerals, including Ti-rich oxide phases, were observed filling and preserving the microtextures, demonstrating a mechanism whereby cellular materials may be preserved through geologic time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number149
JournalFrontiers in Earth Science
Publication statusPublished - Jun 18 2019


  • Basaltic glass
  • Biomolecule
  • Ichnofossils
  • Ontong Java Plateau
  • Synchrotron XANES

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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