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Biomediated Precipitation of Calcium Carbonate Metastable Phases in Hypogean Environments: A Short Review

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Natural precipitates of metastable polymorphs of CaCO 3 , such as vaterite, are rarely found in nature however, they have been widely synthesized in laboratory under particular conditions (ie, supersaturated solutions, relative high temperatures, etc.). By SEM and XRD we recognize vaterite spherulites from culturable microbial colonies isolated from hypogean environments. Spherical bodies (~10 w in diameter), probably composed of vaterite, occur in submilimetric microbial mats and biofilms on volcanic substrates (Saint Callixtus Catacombs, Rome, Italy) and karstic caves (Altamira, Candamo, and Tito Bustillo caves, Spain, and Grotta dei Cervi, Italy) where cyanobacteria and actinomycetes are the major microbial components. These particles form beneath dense biofilms, where particular physicochemical conditions are developed by the microbial activity. Natural biofilms seems to generate microenvironments favoring the formation and preservation of metastable CaCO 3 polymorphs. This also shows a major role of microbes in processes of low-temperature alteration of different hypogean rock-substrates.

Keywords: Actinomycetes; Calcite; Catacombs; Karstic Cave; Monohydrocalcite; Vaterite

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, Madrid, Spain 2: Departamento de Ciencias de la Tierra y del Medio Ambiente, Universidad de Alicante, Alicante, Spain 3: Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiologia, CSIC, Sevilla, Spain

Publication date: September 1, 2003

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