Stromatolite Pictures

 
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Stromatolite Photos Showing Masses of Bacteria Among the Oldest Life Forms on Earth

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What is hard like a rock, is alive, and is among the oldest life forms on earth? A reasonable guess might be hard coral, but coral has only been in existence a mere 542 million years, or since the Cambrian Period. The answer is stromatolites, hard, rock-like structures that exist in places few forms of life can tolerate and that have been in existence for some 3.5 billion years! They are created by the accumulation of photosynthesizing cyanobacteria, also mistakenly known as blue-green algae. They can be found today in hypersaline lakes and marine environments where the extreme salt level prevents animals such as snails from grazing on them. Some places they can be found are Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve, Shark Bay, Australia and Lagoa Salgada, Brazil. An inland site is Cuatro Cienegas, Mexico. Mysteriously, there is one marine site that is not hypersaline that features stromatolites - Exuma Cays, Bahamas.

Stromatolites were first known from the fossil record, and they are considered the earth's oldest fossils. They existed in abundance back in the days when there were no animals or plants on earth. Because they were copious photosynthesizers, their waste product, oxygen, entered the atmosphere in great quantities, making it suitable for other forms of life. Over time, organisms developed that grazed on stromatolites, and by the Cambrian Period, they numbered only 20% of their peak. Scientists had long known about stromatolites from the fossil record, but were surprised and delighted to find them still in existence when they were discovered in 1956 at Shark Bay, Western Australia. They are one of the few organisms alive today that were known from the fossil record before they were discovered alive.

The cyanobacteria that creates stromatolites is sometimes called blue-green algae, but this is a misnomer. They are in fact prokaryotic bacteria, and are neither algae nor plant. Prokaryotes have no nucleus or cell organelles. When they colonize to form a stromatolite, they number some 3 billion organisms per square meter. They form by accretion of their solid parts. The cyanobacteria secrets a mucus coating that traps sediment. New cyanobacteria grow over the sediment towards the sun. Calcium carbonate precipitate from the water provides a hard, cement-like material to fuse the sediment together.

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picture of stromatolites Australia picture of stromatolites Australia picture of stromatolites Australia picture of stromatolites Australia

Picture of living stromatolites that may be up to 1, 000 years old. Shark Bay, Western Australia, Indian Ocean. Fossil stromatolites are the oldest known life forms on earth up to 3.5 billion years

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Stock photo of living stromatolites that may be up to 1, 000 years old. Shark Bay, Western Australia, Indian Ocean. Fossil stromatolites are the oldest known life forms on earth up to 3.5 billion years

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Image of a stromatolite, a limestone accretion formed by cyanobacteria, Hamelin Pool, Shark Bay, Western Australia, Indian Ocean; may be up to 1000 years old

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Photo of living stromatolite, limestone accretion formed by cyanobacteria, may be up to 1, 000 years old, fossil stromatoilites are the oldest known life forms on earth, up to 3.5 billion years old, Shark Bay, Western Australia

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picture of stromatolites Australia picture of stromatolites Australia picture of stromatolites Australia picture of stromatolites and jellyfish Australia

Picture of living stromatolites that may be up to 1, 000 years old. Shark Bay, Western Australia, Indian Ocean. Fossil stromatolites are the oldest known life forms on earth up to 3.5 billion years

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Stock photo of living stromatolites that may be up to 1, 000 years old. Shark Bay, Western Australia, Indian Ocean. Fossil stromatolites are the oldest known life forms on earth up to 3.5 billion years

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Image of a stromatolite, a limestone accretion formed by cyanobacteria, Hamelin Pool, Shark Bay, Western Australia, Indian Ocean; may be up to 1000 years old

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Photo of living stromatolite, limestone accretion formed by blue green algae, with jellyfish, Thysanostoma sp. among the stromatolites, Shark Bay, Australia

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