Dolomite discovery ends 100-year treasure hunt

Dec 09, 2011
Dolomite discovery ends 100-year treasure hunt
Dolomite has been found inside 'reef building' algae.

(PhysOrg.com) -- The century-old mystery of a missing mineral in coral reefs has been solved by a team from The Australian National University. 

The team, led by Dr. Bradley Opdyke of the Research School of Earth Sciences, has uncovered a hidden stash of the mineral dolomite in around the globe, ending a search that has lasted over 100 years. The discovery was published in November’s Biogeosciences

“For over a century scientists have puzzled over the ‘dolomite problem’ – the mystery surrounding the abundance of dolomite in fossil reefs and its apparent absence from modern reefs,” said Dr. Opdyke. 

“We have discovered that dolomite is in fact present in large quantities in modern coral reefs, but from an unexpected source.” 

The team’s eureka moment came when they found large quantities of dolomite packed inside a ‘reef builder’ species of red , Hydrolithon onkodes. 

“There was dolomite on the reefs all along, but it was hidden within these algae,” said Dr. Opdyke. 

“This species of algae is found in abundance on reefs around the world. The algae work with coral to ‘cement’ the reef structure to withstand the tremendous hydraulic pressure of waves. 

“This is the first discovery of dolomite associated with a living organism.” 

Student Marinda Nash and Dr. Uli Troitzsch made the surprise discovery while investigating the effects of climate change on red algae. 

“The discovery was completely serendipitous – we were working on an unrelated question at the time,” said Dr. Opdyke. “When we confirmed the finding I said to Marinda, ‘This is going to be huge’. It opens up a kaleidoscope of future research topics.” 

Explore further: Biology trumps chemistry in open ocean

Provided by Australian National University

4.9 /5 (17 votes)

Related Stories

Scientists find new Australian frog

Jul 26, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new miniature frog species or ‘toadlet’ has been discovered in the resource-rich Pilbara region of Western Australia, an area previously thought to support very few of the amphibians.

Isolated reefs regenerate faster: study

Nov 28, 2011

A recent study published in CSIRO’s Marine & Freshwater Research reveals isolated reefs may have a better ability to regenerate compared to those closer to human activity.

Fish find a suitable homes through noise

Jan 10, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Noisy neighbors can be desirable – at least if you’re a young reef fish trying to choose a home. New research from the Universities of Auckland and Bristol found that juvenile ...

Recommended for you

Biology trumps chemistry in open ocean

3 hours ago

Single-cell phytoplankton in the ocean are responsible for roughly half of global oxygen production, despite vast tracts of the open ocean that are devoid of life-sustaining nutrients. While phytoplankton's ...

Underwater robot sheds new light on Antarctic sea ice

8 hours ago

The first detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice have been developed using an underwater robot. Scientists from the UK, USA and Australia say the new technology provides accurate ice thickness ...

Damage caused by geothermal probes is rare

10 hours ago

Soil settlements or upheavals and resulting cracks in monuments, floodings, or dried-up wells: Reports about damage caused by geothermal probes have made the population feel insecure. In fact, the probability ...

Extreme shrimp may hold clues to alien life

12 hours ago

(Phys.org) —At one of the world's deepest undersea hydrothermal vents, tiny shrimp are piled on top of each other, layer upon layer, crawling on rock chimneys that spew hot water. Bacteria, inside the shrimps' ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Au-Pu
5 / 5 (2) Dec 09, 2011
Like so many other solutions, they are right under our noses, but we are not looking for them in the right manner (i.e. places or directions).

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.