PerspectiveGeochemistry

A Hard Life for Cyanobacteria

Science  27 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6080, pp. 427-428
DOI: 10.1126/science.1221055

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Summary

Many organisms precipitate minerals (1), and sometimes the reasons appear obvious. Humans, for example, rely on biominerals to provide vital skeletal support. But interpreting biomineralization can also be challenging. On page 459 in this issue, Couradeau et al. (2) show that the cyanobacterium Candidatus Gloeomargarita lithophora from Alchichica, an alkaline lake in Mexico, produces the amorphous mineral benstonite. This rare carbonate has a more complicated composition than common calcium carbonate minerals such as calcite. Furthermore, the particular variety of benstonite produced by the bacterium contains almost as much barium, magnesium, and strontium as calcium. But the point that focuses attention is that the benstonite occurs inside the bacterial cells.