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Photosynthetic microbes, particularly cyanobacteria, that bore into carbonates are ancient biological players in various geologic phenomena such as the destruction of biogenic carbonates and coastal limestones, the reworking of carbonate sands and the cementation of microbialites. Their signatures are important tools for paleoenvironmental reconstruction, and they play a significant role in marine aquaculture. In spite of their geologic, environmental and economic importance, the mechanism by which they are able to excavate calcareous and calcophosphatic mineral substrates remains unknown. Excavation by acidulation, commonly thought to be a possible mechanism, constitutes nothing less than an apparent paradox, in...