Pyritized plant tissues with well-preserved morphology were studied in rocks from Vanoise (western Alps, France) that experienced high-pressure, low-temperature metamorphic conditions in the blueschist facies during the Alpine orogeny. Organic and inorganic phases composing these fossils were characterized down to the nanometer scale by Raman microspectroscopy, scanning transmission X-ray microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. The graphitic but disordered organic matter composing these fossils is chemically and structurally homogeneous and mostly contains aromatic functional groups. Its original chemistry remains undefined likely because it was significantly transformed by diagenetic processes and/or thermal degradation during metamorphism. Various mineral phases are closely associated with this organic matter, including sulphides such as pyrite and pyrrhotite, carbonates such as ankerite and calcite, and iron oxides. A tentative time sequence of formation of these diverse mineral phases relative to organic matter decay is proposed. The absence of traces of organic matter sulphurization, the pervasive pyritization of the vascular tissues and the presence of ankerite suggest that the depositional/diagenetic environment of these metasediments was likely rich in reactive iron. Fe-sulphides and ankerite likely precipitated early and might have promoted the preservation of the fossilized biological soft tissues by providing mechanical resistance to compaction during diagenesis and subsequent metamorphism. In contrast, iron oxides which form rims of 100-nm in thickness at the interface between organic matter and Fe-sulphides may result from metamorphic processes. This study illustrates that it may be possible in some instances to deconvolve metamorphic from diagenetic imprints and opens new avenues to better constrain processes that may allow the preservation of organic fossils during diagenesis and metamorphism. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Bernard, Sylvain Benzerara, Karim Beyssac, Olivier Brown, Gordon E., Jr.