Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



ASTROBIOLOGY Volume 15, Number 8, 2015


© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

This document is a U.S. government work and is not subject to copyright in the United States.

DOI: 10.1089/ast.2015.1305


The Kanab Wonderstone is sandstone (Shinarump Member, Chinle Formation) that is cemented and stained with iron oxide. The iron-oxide cementation and staining in these rocks have been considered examples of the Liesegang phenomenon, but we will show that they comprise a microbially induced structure. The spacing of bands of iron-oxide stain follow the Jablczynski spacing law (wherein the spacing between bands of iron-oxide stain increases as one traverses a series of bands) characteristic of Liesegang. Bands of iron-oxide cement exhibit more variable spacing and exhibit a weak but significant correlation between band thickness and distance between bands of cement. The pore-filling cement contains morphotypes that are similar in size and habit to those exhibited by microaerophilic iron-oxidizing bacteria. Other disseminated iron-oxide mineralization occurs as rhombohedra interpreted to be pseudomorphs after siderite. We interpret the cement to be produced by microbially mediated oxidation of siderite (a typical early diagenetic mineral in fluvial sandstones). Iron-oxidizing bacteria colonized the redox interface between siderite-cemented sand and porous sandstone. Microbes oxidized aqueous Fe(II), generating acid that caused siderite dissolution. The iron-oxide cement is the microbial product of a geochemical drive for organization; whereas the iron-oxide stain is true Liesegang. Together, they comprise a distinctive microbially induced structure with high preservation potential. Key Words: Biosignatures—Iron oxides—Diagenesis—Iron-oxidizing bacteria—Shinarump.