Special Issue "Biocrystallization and Environmental Archives. Revisiting the Urey’s "vital effect" Concept"

A special issue of Minerals (ISSN 2075-163X). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Mineralogy and Biogeochemistry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 November 2019

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Jean-Pierre Cuif

Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, CR2P, 8 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France
Website | E-Mail
Interests: structure composition and growth mode of calcareous biostructures
Guest Editor
Dr. Claire Rollion-Bard

Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, IPGP, 1 rue Jussieu, 75005 Paris, France
Website | E-Mail
Interests: stable isotope geochemistry; proxies of paleoenvironmental conditions; biomineralisation processes

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

During the last three decades a series of innovative physical methods applied to calcareous biominerals resulted in considerable changes regarding the concept of biocrystallization. Far from a simple chemical reaction leading to ionic-type precipitation of Ca-minerals within dedicated crystallization spaces, specifically secreted organic components are now considered as key-factors in the biocrystallization process by establishing a physiological link between intra- and extracellular areas.

However, no sensible progress has been made in the explanation of this intriguing property of biominerals hypothesized by H.C. Urey in his seminal 1951 paper: “We may ask whether there is a vital effect”. More than half a century later, capability of living organisms to record environmental parameters in their skeletons each of them with a species-specific bias remains largely enigmatic. That this biologically driven crystallization mechanism directly impacts the incorporation of geochemical proxies is clearly assessed by high resolution measurements having established that within a given specimen built by distinct microstructural layers parallel series of environmental signals are simultaneously recorded, each of them precisely associated to a distinct crystallization area.

δ18O measurements made on the skeleton of the deep sea coral Lophelia offer demonstrative evidence of the practical importance of this differential crystallization mechanism. Actually, two vital effects are simultaneously running during growth of this calcareous skeleton, making obvious the direct and very precise control exerted by the polyp on the composition of its underlying skeleton. Similar observations can be conducted about various isotopic fractionations or chemical partitioning in any kind of calcareous biological structure.

From intracellular concentration of amorphous calcium carbonate to extracellular crystallization of the nanometer sized grains that built the crystal-like units, steps of these complex processes have to be deciphered as potential contributors to specificity of the skeleton compositions. Not only is an improved understanding of the biocrystallization process essential to a reliable interpretation of the recorded messages, but the use of ancient archives is also dependent of the stability of biominerals through time. Taking into account the complexity of the initial organo-mineral assemblages, there is no doubt that the diagenetic status of ancient biominerals (i.e., validity of the recorded proxies), cannot be assess through a simple mineralogical control.

Taking advantage of our unprecedented analytical capabilities the scope of this Minerals issue is to trigger an up-to-date attempt to address the vital effect question that is still a major hampering factor in the use of calcareous skeletons as environmental archives. From investigations dealing with cellular processes to experiments in which mineralogical and crystallographic properties of naturally or experimentally produced Ca-carbonate materials will be compared to their specific chemical or isotopic properties. This special issue dedicated to the prophetic and still unexplained Urey’s hypothesis will be a milestone in the field.

Prof. Dr. Jean-Pierre Cuif
Dr. Claire Rollion-Bard
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Minerals is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Biogenic carbonates
  • Geochemistry
  • Vital effects
  • Ca-carbonate precursors
  • Biocrystallisation
  • Microstructures

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle
Extracellular and Intracellular Biomineralization Induced by Bacillus licheniformis DB1-9 at Different Mg/Ca Molar Ratios
Minerals 2018, 8(12), 585; https://doi.org/10.3390/min8120585
Received: 12 October 2018 / Revised: 5 December 2018 / Accepted: 6 December 2018 / Published: 11 December 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (15735 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Biomineralization has become a research hotspot and attracted widespread attention in the field of carbonate sedimentology. In this study, precipitation of carbonate minerals was induced by Bacillus licheniformis DB1-9 bacteria, (identity confirmed with its phylogenetic tree), to further explore the biomineralization mechanisms. During [...] Read more.
Biomineralization has become a research hotspot and attracted widespread attention in the field of carbonate sedimentology. In this study, precipitation of carbonate minerals was induced by Bacillus licheniformis DB1-9 bacteria, (identity confirmed with its phylogenetic tree), to further explore the biomineralization mechanisms. During experiments, lasting up to 24 days with varying Mg/Ca molar ratios and regular monitoring of conditions, ammonia and carbonic anhydrase are released by the bacteria, resulting in a pH increase. Carbonic anhydrase could have promoted carbon dioxide hydration to produce bicarbonate and carbonate ions, and so promoted supersaturation to facilitate the precipitation of carbonate minerals. These include rhombohedral, dumbbell-shaped, and elongated calcite crystals; aragonite appears in the form of mineral aggregates. In addition, spheroidal and fusiform minerals are precipitated. FTIR results show there are organic functional groups, such as C–O–C and C=O, as well as the characteristic peaks of calcite and aragonite; these indicate that there is a close relationship between the bacteria and the minerals. Ultrathin slices of the bacteria analyzed by HRTEM, SAED, EDS, and STEM show that precipitate within the extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) has a poor crystal structure, and intracellular granular areas have no crystal structure. Fluorescence intensity and STEM results show that calcium ions can be transported from the outside to the inside of the cells. This study provides further insights to our understanding of biomineralization mechanisms induced by microorganisms. Full article

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