Editor's Summary

8 June 2006

Biodiversity rocks


The existence — or otherwise — of life on Earth in the Archaean eon (prior to 2,500 million years ago) has been a matter of heated debate. Much of this centres on whether layered sedimentary structures called stromatolites reflect the activities of colonial microorganisms, as is the case today, or betray some non-biological process. The case for life is boosted by a new analysis of a remarkable 10-km-long rocky outcrop in Western Australia. The stromatolites here are around 3,430 million years old, and display characteristics similar to those found in younger microbial reefs: this is not a series of isolated fossils — more like an entire ecosystem in fossil form. Life not only existed way back then, it seems, but it was thriving. The cover image shows a conical stromatolite from the reef outcrop: no scale bar, but the shades peering from beneath the Nature logo indicate size.

News and ViewsPalaeontology: Respect for stromatolites

Is it time to stop worrying over whether the ancient structures called stromatolites are of microbial origin? 'Yes' is the answer to emerge from field and lab work on a 3,430-million-year-old marine ecosystem.

Stanley M. Awramik

doi:10.1038/441700a

ArticleStromatolite reef from the Early Archaean era of Australia

Abigail C. Allwood, Malcolm R. Walter, Balz S. Kamber, Craig P. Marshall and Ian W. Burch

doi:10.1038/nature04764

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