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Free Content Morphological and compositional evidence for biotic precipitation of marine barite

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Barite formation in the surface oceans is generally assumed to be dominated by abiotic precipitation. Acceptance of this pathway is largely the result of the absence of a pelagic marine organism known to precipitate the ovoid to rounded-rectangular barite crystals typically observed in marine waters and sediments.

Barite crystals observed in net-tow particles and on substrates retrieved from the seafloor (both in the central North Pacific) were examined by scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry. Three distinct crystalline forms of barite were observed: ovoid and hexagonal crystals several microns in diameter, and aggregates of submicron-sized crystals. Ovoid and hexagonal-type crystals contained between 0 and 26 mole percent SrSO4. The microcrystalline barite contained no detectable Sr (<0.05 percent). Hexagonal-type crystals were precipitated by an unusual benthic foraminifera. Comparison of the morphology and composition of the barite crystals observed in this study to crystals precipitated by a variety of biotic and abiotic processes suggests a biotic origin for the ovoid barite crystals, the most common form of barite observed in this region.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 1997

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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