Understanding how microbialites record biological processes is essential for interpreting ancient microbial ecology and evolution. To explore these processes, Harwood and Sumner evaluate how closely microbialite microstructures reflect the morphology and organization of the microbial community as opposed to other environmental or diagenetic processes in stromatolites and thrombolites in the Neoproterozoic Beck Spring Dolomite. Here, these units preserve clotted and laminated microfabrics with variable preservation of microbial growth structures. This study demonstrates that diverse microfabrics in Beck Spring microbialites reflect both the morphology and organization of microbial communities as well as secondary degradational processes, and provides criteria for distinguishing these origins. Applying these criteria to ancient microbialites will facilitate evaluation of whether preserved diverse microstructures reflect variable preservation or an ecologically complex microbial community.
Origins of microbial microstructures in the Neoproterozoic Beck Spring Dolomite: variations in microbial community and timing of lithification by Cara L. Harwood and Dawn Y. Sumner