Updated: Mar 8
Meet the latest member of my collection. This is a less well-known fossil that deserves much wider appreciation. Frankly, without the stromatolites, we probably would not be here. The stromatolites were responsible for producing Earth's early atmosphere, which then provided the conditions for more complex lifeforms to emerge. They were tiny single-celled algae. Massed together they eventually produced concretions and mounds.
This piece is a polished cross-section from Bolivia which shows the way the layers built up over time. This piece is relatively youthful at a mere 70 million years old. The oldest stromatolites are believed to be around 3.5 billion years old. As our planet is only about 4.5 billion years old, their existence reaches back to a very early Earth.
Having purchased this slice I discovered that I already owned a beautiful example of stromatolites, this time a local piece. It is called Cotham marble, which is why I didn't connect it with the stromatolites. It's found around South Wales and the Bristol area of the UK. I like the soft grey tones and the patterns which are so evocative of being created organically over time.
What I find especially pleasing about stromatolites is that living examples still exist in shallow, warm salty waters, with the best colonies in Western Australia. Like so many other life-forms they are sadly now under threat from human activities and have to be protected.
For me the stromatolites carry the story of the Earth and connect us with our Earth Mother, Gaia. They remind us to be more responsible in our human activities, as our behaviour is impacting so many other lifeforms. They also teach us the value of patience as it took vast amounts of time for them to create that early atmosphere.