Nanobacteria-like calcite single crystals at the surface of the Tataouine meteorite
Nanobacteria-like objects evidenced at the surface of the orthopy-roxenes of the Tataouine meteorite in South Tunisia have been studied by scanning and transmission electron microscopies. A method of micromanipulation has been developed to ensure that exactly the same objects were studied by both methods. We have shown that the nanobacteria-like objects are spatially correlated with filaments of microorganisms that colonized the surface of the meteoritic pyroxene during its 70 years of residence in the aridic Tataouine soil. Depressions of a few micrometers in depth are observed in the pyroxene below the carbonates, indicating preferential dissolution of the pyroxene and calcite precipitation at these locations. The nanobacteria-like small rods that constitute calcium carbonate rosettes are well crystallized calcite single crystals surrounded by a thin amorphous layer of carbonate composition that smoothes the crystal edges and induces rounded shapes. Those morphologies are unusual for calcite single crystals observed in natural samples. A survey of recent literature suggests that the intervention of organic compounds derived from biological activity is likely in their formation.