Stromatolite :The Original Producers of Oxygen and Oldest Fossils encoding the mysteries of Deep Time

Stromatolites are considered the most intriguing fossils that are our window  into deep time on earth, the emergence of life, and the eventual evolving of the beautiful life forms from Cambrian to modern time. In broad terms, stromatolites are fossil evidence of the prokaryotic life that remains today, as it has always been, the preponderance of biomass in the biosphere.They maintain and recycle the atomic ingredients upon which proteins that “are” all life are made, including oxygen, nitrogen and carbon. We humans are, in simple terms, bags of water filled with proteins and prokaryotic bacteria . We humans have descended from organisms that adapted to living in a prokaryotic world, and we humans retain (conserved in evolutionary terms) in our mitochondria the cellular machinery to power.Stromatolites are layered accretionary structures formed in shallow water by the trapping, binding and cementation of sedimentary grains by biofilms of microorganisms, especially cyanobacteria (commonly known as blue-green algae). They include some of the most ancient records of life on Earth.

Stromatolites were much more abundant on the planet in Precambrian times. While older, Archean fossil remains are presumed to be colonies of single-celled blue-green bacteria, younger (that is, Proterozoic) fossils may be primordial forms of the eukaryote chlorophytes (that is, green algae). One genus of stromatolite very common in the geologic record is Collenia. The earliest stromatolite of confirmed microbial origin dates to 2,724 million years ago.A recent discovery provides strong evidence of microbial stromatolites extending as far back as 3,450 million years ago

Stromatolites are a major constituent of the fossil record for about the first 3.5 billion years of life on earth, with their abundance peaking about 1,250 million years ago. They subsequently declined in abundance and diversity, which by the start of the Cambrian had fallen to 20% of their peak. The most widely-supported explanation is that stromatolite builders fell victims to grazing creatures (the Cambrian substrate revolution), implying that sufficiently complex organisms were common over 1 billion years ago.The connection between grazer and stromatolite abundance is well documented in the younger Ordovician evolutionary radiation; stromatolite abundance also increased after the end-Ordovician and end-Permian extinctions decimated marine animals, falling back to earlier levels as marine animals recovered.

Cyanobacteria are thought to be largely responsible for increasing the amount of oxygen in the primeval earth’s atmosphere through their continuing photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria use water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight to create their food. The byproducts of this process are oxygen and calcium carbonate (lime). A layer of mucus often forms over mats of cyanobacterial cells. In modern microbial mats, debris from the surrounding habitat can become trapped within the mucus, which can be cemented together by the calcium carbonate to grow thin laminations of limestone. These laminations can accrete over time, resulting in the banded pattern common to stromatolites. The domal morphology of biological stromatolites is the result of the vertical growth necessary for the continued infiltration of sunlight to the organisms for photosynthesis. [edit] Modern occurrence Modern stromatolites are mostly found in hypersaline lakes and marine lagoons where extreme conditions due to high saline levels exclude animal grazing. One such location is Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve, Shark Bay in Western Australia where excellent specimens are observed today, and another is Lagoa Salgada, state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where modern stromatolites can be observed as bioherm (domal type) and beds. Inland stromatolites can also be found in saline waters in Cuatro Ciénegas, a unique ecosystem in the Mexican desert, and in Lake Alchichica, a maar lake in Mexico’s Oriental Basin. Modern stromatolites are only known to prosper in an open marine environment in the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas . Freshwater stromatolites are found in Lake Salda in southern Turkey. The waters are rich in magnesium and the stromatolite structures are made of hydromagnesite.Layered spherical growth structures named oncolites are similar to stromatolites, and are also known from the fossil record.




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About Rashid Faridi

I am Rashid Aziz Faridi ,Writer, Teacher and a Voracious Reader.
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