The microbial role in hot spring silicification

Kurt O. Konhauser, Brian Jones, Vernon R. Phoenix, Grant Ferris, Robin W. Renaut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Citations (Scopus)


Recent experimental studies indicate that microorganisms play a passive role in silicification. The organic functional groups that comprise the outer cell surfaces simply serve as heterogeneous nucleation sites for the adsorption of polymeric and/or colloidal silica, and because different microorganisms have different cell ultrastructural chemistry, species-specific patterns of silicification arise. Despite their templating role, they do not appear to increase the kinetics of silicification, and at the very most, they contribute only marginally to the magnitude of silicification. Instead, silicification is due to the polymerization of silica-supersaturated hydrothermal fluids upon discharge at the surface of the hot spring. Microorganisms do, however, impart an influence on the fabric of the siliceous sinters that form around hot spring vents. Different microorganisms have different growth patterns, that in turn, affect the style of laminations, the primary porosity of the sinter and the distribution of later-stage diagenetic cementation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-558
Number of pages7
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • hydrothermal fluid
  • microbial activity
  • silicate
  • silicification
  • sinter


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