Phosphorus is a key element for life---as phosphate (PO4) it helps form the structural framework of information storing DNA and RNA, and has crucial functions in the energy and support systems of organisms (such as ATP). Phosphorous occurs naturally in a number of minerals (e.g. apatite, which is calcium phosphate) and is even present in meteorites, but it is via a variety of weathering and microbial mechanisms that phosphorous-rich deposits (phosphorites) are formed. To do so microbially requires a bacterial consortium, an ecosystem driven by various microbes generating a complementary suite of reduction-oxidation processes specific to the organic and electron-donor substrates in a particular environmental setting.
|Fig. 1. Fossilised
sulphur-oxidising bacteria preserved |
in 2 billion year old rocks, Karelia NW Russia (photo:
Aivo Lepland, Norwegian Geological Survey).
apatite particles indicative of a biogenic |
origin and typically attributed to methanotrophic archaea
(photo: Aivo Lepland, Norwegian Geological Survey).
Potential influence of sulphur bacteria on Palaeoproterozoic phosphogenesis, Nature Geoscience