- © The Mineralogical Society Of America
“Biomineralization links soft organic tissues, which are compositionally akin to the atmosphere and oceans, with the hard materials of the solid Earth. It provides organisms with skeletons and shells while they are alive, and when they die these are deposited as sediment in environments from river plains to the deep ocean floor. It is also these hard, resistant products of life which are mainly responsible for the Earth’s fossil record. Consequently, biomineralization involves biologists, chemists, and geologists in interdisciplinary studies at one of the interfaces between Earth and life.”
(Leadbeater and Riding 1986)
Biomineralization refers to the processes by which organisms form minerals. The control exerted by many organisms over mineral formation distinguishes these processes from abiotic mineralization. The latter was the primary focus of earth scientists over the last century, but the emergence of biogeochemistry and the urgency of understanding the past and future evolution of the Earth are moving biological mineralization to the forefront of various fields of science, including the earth sciences.
The growth in biogeochemistry has led to a number of new exciting research areas where the distinctions between the biological, chemical, and earth sciences disciplines melt away. Of the wonderful topics that are receiving renewed attention, the study of biomineral formation is perhaps the most fascinating. Truly at the interface of earth and life, biomineralization is a discipline that is certain to see major advancements as a new generation of scientists brings cross-disciplinary training and new experimental and computational methods to the most daunting problems. It is, however, by no means a new field. The first book on biomineralization was published in 1924 in German by W.J. Schmidt (Schmidt 1924), and the subject has continued to intrigue a dedicated community of scientists for many years. Until the early 1980s the field was known as …