Stromatolites document microbial interactions with sediments and flowing water throughout recorded Earth history and have the potential to illuminate the long-term history of life and environments. Modern stromatolites, however, provide analogs to only a small subset of the structures preserved in Archean and Proterozoic carbonates. Thus, interpretations of secular trends in the shapes and textures of ancient columnar stromatolites require nonuniformitarian, scale-dependent models of microbial responses to nutrient availability, seawater chemistry, influx of sediment grains, shear, and burial. Models that integrate stromatolite scales, macroscopic organization, and shapes could also help test the biogenicity of the oldest stromatolites and other structures whose petrographic fabrics do not preserve direct evidence of microbial activity. An improved understanding of stromatolite morphogenesis in the presence of oxygenic and anoxygenic microbial mats may illuminate the diversity of microbial metabolisms that contributed to stromatolite growth in early oceans.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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