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Living Fossils

Located in Hamelin’s Pool, a shallow area of Shark Bay in Western Australia, these odd formations aren’t rocks—they’re stromatolites, and they were built over millennia by single-celled cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae). 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, a huge bank of seagrass began to block the tidal flow into Hamelin’s Pool, which meant that the water became twice as salty as the open ocean. Animals like snails and chitons that would usually feed on the algae couldn’t survive, so the blue-green algae began to flourish. Gathered in colonies, they trapped sediment with their sticky surface coatings. This sediment reacted with calcium carbonate in the water and formed limestone, essentially creating a living fossil—this limestone is alive, its top surface layer teeming with active cyanobacteria. The limestone builds up slowly at a rate of about 1mm per year. The stromatolites in Shark Bay are estimated to be between 3,000 and 2,000 years old, but they’re similar to life forms in Precambrian times, 3.5 billion years ago, at the dawn of complex organisms. There are over 50 kinds of cyanobacteria in Shark Bay, and one is thought to have descended from an organism that lived nearly 2 million years ago, making it a part of one of the longest biological lineages.

(Image Credit: 1, 2)

The Archean World, Peter Sawyer, The Smithsonian Institution

In the Archean, life is at its purest. No courtship, no conflict, no sleep, no song, no fear, no lust—just organisms, simplified to abstraction, thriving in poison, water, and ash. Life is not a substance, but a process: consume and continue.

Thermophiliacs feast on hot spring chemicals, relishing the heavy stink of sulphur, and kaleidoscope the steaming pool’s edges. Elsewhere, stromatolites, shallow-water plateaus of sediment and biofilm, learn photosynthesis, change the atmosphere, and terraform the dawn planet. 

The microbes are oblivious to anything outside of their own homeostasis, yet assemble into communities, unknowingly nestling cell walls against each other. Millions of lives surround each bacteria, but they only know their own, like a man running through the streets of Prague, bumping elbows with a thousand other lives—each rich with hope and love and loss—but thinking only of catching the 207 bus on time.

Earliest Evidence of Life Found in Australia

by PhysOrg staff

A group of US researchers studying some of the oldest rocks in the world in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, say they have found the oldest traces of life on Earth, dated at 3.49 billion years old.

The scientists, led by Associate Professor Nora Noffke of the Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, did not strictly find fossils of that age, but actually found web-like patterns criss-crossing the surfaces of the Pilbara sandstone. Dr. Noffke calls the patterns and textures Microbially Induced Sedimentary Structures (MISS) and said the structures were created by a complete ecosystem of different types of bacteria living in the Archean eon (roughly 3.8 to 2.5 GA) almost three-and-a-half billion years ago.

The Pilbara region is a popular area for scientists searching for traces of early life on the planet because the ancient sedimentary rocks are extremely well preserved. The rocks were originally sand, and the region was originally a coastal plain. The sand was then built up into microbial mats by microbes, and over time the sand turned to rock and preserved the bacterial mats and structures such as MISS…

(read more: PhysOrg)                               (photoL: Paul Harrison)

Scientists Solve Disappearance of Stromatolites Mystery

The widespread disappearance of stromatolites, the earliest visible manifestation of life on Earth, may have been driven by single-celled organisms called foraminifera.

The findings, by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI); Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Univ. of Connecticut; Harvard Medical School; and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, were published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/05/scientists-solve-disappearance-stromatolites-mystery

What Doomed the Stromatolites? - Scientists find key clue to an ancient enigma

by Cherie Winner

About a billion years before the dinosaurs became extinct, stromatolites roamed the Earth until they mysteriously disappeared. Well, not roamed exactly. 

Stromatolites (“layered rocks”) are rocky structures made by photosynthetic cyanobacteria. The microbes secrete sticky compounds that bind together sediment grains, creating a mineral “microfabric” that accumulates in fine layers. Massive formations of stromatolites showed up along shorelines all over the world about 3.5 billion years ago. They were the earliest visible manifestation of life on Earth and dominated the scene for more than two billion years. 

“They were one of the earliest examples of the intimate connection between biology—living things—and geology—the structure of the Earth itself,” said Joan Bernhard, a geobiologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). “Then, around one billion years ago, their diversity and abundance begin to take a nosedive.” …

(read more: Oceanus - WHOI)

Crazy Stromatolite

This rock is an amazing, Precambrian aged fossil. The layered structures you see are stromatolites; the result of microscopic organisms producing alternating layers of sediment as they grow outward. 

The source of the colors isn’t completely clear from the description, but I think they relate to some of the other nearby rocks in Minnesota, where this was found. Other ancient rocks in this area are the source of Minnesota’s major iron formations, and iron is probably a source of both the greenish and reddish/orange colors in this rock.

-JBB

Image credit (Creative Commons):
https://www.flickr.com/photos/tshearer/3935255529/

Single-Cell Smackdown: The Battle for Earth’s Early Oceans

by Becky Oskin

For 2 billion years stromatolites ruled the fossil record, dominating shallow-water environments everywhere on Earth. But, long before algae-munching animals appeared 550 million years ago, stromatolites mysteriously plummeted in number, and now scientists think they’ve found a possible culprit…

(read more :Live Science)

(photo: stromatolites in Sharks Bay, Australia, one of the few places on Earth where these living fossils survive, by Virginia Edgcomb, WHOI)

I am such a huge fucking bio nerd omg

My sister i-am-the-leaf-on-the-wind is watching some kind of educational video for one of her classes in the room next door and I heard the word “stomatolite” and I jumped up and ran into her room like “DID I HEAR SOMETHING ABOUT STROMATOLITES THOSE THINGS RULE” and ran out again

AND IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT A STROMATOLITE IS THEY’RE BASICALLY THE COOLEST THING IN THE WORLD THEY’RE REMAINS OF ANCIENT CYANOBACTERIA COLONIES AND WE’RE TALKING LIKE 3.5 BILLION YEARS AGO HERE THE EARTH IS ONLY ABOUT 4.5 BILLION YEARS OLD SO BASICALLY STROMATOLITES ARE LEFT OVERS FROM SOME OF THE VERY FIRST LIFE FORMS TO INHABIT THIS EARTH AND THERE ARE STILL SOME AROUND TODAY (although those ones are younger) THESE MOTHERFUCKING CYANOBACTERIA AND THEIR MOTHERFUCKING FORMATIONS HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR THE MAJORITY OF THE PLANET’S LIFETIME AND IF YOU DON’T THINK THAT’S THE COOLEST SHIT YOU CAN GET OFF AT THE NEXT ASTEROID BECAUSE YOU DON’T DESERVE TO SHARE THIS PLANET WITH THE STROMATOLITES

Bio nerd out

Watch on rinny009.tumblr.com
Astrologic eras,
primeval oceans,
erosion and sediment
Three billion years,
genesis of life,
geologic eras
Cambrian,
Ordovician,
Silurian,
Devonian,
Stromatolite,
bacteria,
collenia.
Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous.
Lycopsida,
selaginella,
pleuromeia.
Caytonia
bennetites,
ammonite.
Oceanic Rose,
Oceanic Lily,
Oceanic Apple
Oceanic Flower Buds.
Oceanic Angel,
Oceanic Mirror,
Oceanic Gate,
Oceanic Haze.
Carboniferous, Permian, Paleozoic.
The Oceanic You,
The Oceanic Me,
are the Paleozoic within the body.
Continuing to live,
continuing to die,
the Paleozoic telling the story.
Just like the whale, I go
Just like the dolphin, I go
Just like the seal, I go
to the bottom of the sea, the oceanic me.
At the bottom of the sea, a grand history.
to the bottom of the sea, where I will be me.
Ammonite!
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