Researcher Profile

Jackson School of Geosciences

Robert L Folk

Robert L Folk
Professor Emeritus, Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences
Dave P. Carlton Centennial Professor Emeritus in Geology

Work: +1 512 232 8378
Office: JGB 5.326
Mailcode: C1100

Since I retired from teaching in 1988, my career has done an about-face. Through dumb luck (and a new SEM) I made the initial discovery of mineralized nannobacteria (dwarf bacterial forms) in the carbonate hot springs of Viterbo, near Rome, Italy. This evidence was later used by NASA to propose nannobacterial fossils in the Martian meteorite. The topic still enrages most biologists who firmly believe these 0.1 micron objects are "too small for life." But they can be cultured, have the chemical composition of living material (C, N, O), take the same biological stains as "normal" bacteria, and contain DNA similar to sulfur bacteria. The clincher is work done at Mississippi State University by Dr. Branda Kirkland, Dr. Leo Lynch and Dr. Amanda Lawrence. Using the TEM they found cross-sections of biologically-stained objects as small as 0.09 micron, complete with cell walls and ribosome-like guts. If this does not establish the existence of nano-life, then what other evidence does one need?

Nannobacteria-like objects have been found in calcite, aragonite, dolomite and siderite; quartz, chalcedony and opal; metal sulfides and phosphates; complex aluminosilicates such as clay minerals; rusted iron and oxidized copper; human dental plaque, hardened/blocked arteries, kidney stones and other diseases, as well as Martian and asteroid meteorites. If these are not biological objects, then what are they? The field is open for discovery.

Areas of Expertise

Sedimentary Petrology. studying mineralogy and nannobiology of hot springs in Italy, the role of nannobacteria in creating carbonate rocks. work on cherts, opals, sulfides of iron and other metals, and metal oxides, nannobacteria in martian meteorites and weathering of igneous rocks by nannobacteria under a variety of conditions in Tahiti, West Texas, and Lombardia, Italy.

Research Locations

Selected Publications

From Viterbo Hot Springs - More Aragonite Pearls (of wisdom), And Some Calcite Too - Do Nannos Rule?

Iron oxides from Modern to Archean – nm-scale balls…nannobacteria or not?

Calcification in human arterial disease and geological specimens: The nannobacterial (nanoparticle) link
In this paper, we focus on the similarities of the nannobacterial morphologies found in the biologic and geologic settings, as documented by high resolution SEM.

Clay Minerals and Italy – the Nannobacterial Connection
A continuation of research started by Dr. Folk and the late Dr. F. Leo Lynch seeking to demonstrate a biological origin for many clay minerals

Viterbo Slime, TEM Revelations
TEM study of a green biofilm from Viterbo hot springs show cells in the 50-200 nm range complete with cell walls and internal guts (ribosomes).

Rusting Iron: an Inorganic vs. (Nanno)biological process
Iron rust, when acidized, reveals swarms of insoluable, minute nannobacterial cells in the 5-200 nm size range.

Sono troppo vecchio! Sono povero americano!