Laminae development in opal-A precipitates associated with seasonal growth of the form-genus Calothrix (Cyanobacteria), Rehai geothermal area, Tengchong, Yunnan Province, China.

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  • The western discharge apron at Meinuquan (Rehai geothermal area, Yunnan Province, China), which incorporates the upper terrace, terrace front, and lower terrace, is covered with laminated opal-A precipitates that have formed from the spring waters that flow across its surface. Laminae are formed of silicified Calothrix mats or featureless opal-A that contains no microbes, scattered spherical and rod-shaped microbes, and/or rare Calothrix. Rapid silicification of the Calothrix led to preservation of their basal heterocysts, vegetative cells, trichomes, tapering filaments, and laminated and splayed sheaths. The Calothrix mats grew during the dry season when there was maximum sunlight because of low cloud cover. During this time, the mats grew under stable conditions because the water that flowed across the discharge apron was sourced from the springs, and temperature and water geochemistry was more or less constant. Growth of the Calothrix mats decreased during the wet season (April to late September) when sunlight is reduced due to the extensive cloud cover associated with the monsoonal rains. During the wet season, water flowing over the discharge apron is a mixture of rainwater, runoff from the surrounding hillsides, and spring water. Such variable flow conditions, water temperatures, and water geochemistry curtailed microbe growth and impacted silica precipitation. The precipitates at Meinuquan are like those associated with some Icelandic hot springs. Although growth of Calothrix is controlled by sunlight in both settings, the periods of maximum sunlight in China (October–March) and Iceland (June–August) are at different times of the year because of their geographic locations.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International