Microbial origin of desert varnish

R. I. Dorn, T. M. Oberlander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

199 Scopus citations


Scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive x-ray analyses of desert varnish reveal that microorganisms concentrate ambient manganese that becomes greatly enhanced in brown to black varnish. Specific characteristics of desert varnish and of varnish bacteria support a microbial origin for manganese-rich films. Varnish microbes can be cultured and produce laboratory manganese films. Accordingly, natural desert varnish and also manganese-rich rock varnishes in nondesert environments appear to be a product of microbial activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1245-1247
Number of pages3
Issue number4513
StatePublished - 1981
Externally publishedYes

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