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Earliest Life - North Pole Dome Stromatolite

Earliest Life - North Pole Dome Stromatolite

New at Mini Museum! Limited Availability! 3,481,000,000 years old!

Above: The front of the Specimen Card.

The struggle of life on our dynamic planet is a tale of boom and bust reflected by countless cycles of life in the geological record. We generally think of large, fossilized bones as the best evidence of ancient life, but even microscopic bacteria have left an indelible mark in the form of laminated sediments we call stromatolites.

 

Above: Layers of time from the earliest days of life on Earth. The Rough 4.

While we have several stromatolite specimens in the Mini Museum collection, North Pole Dome stromatolites of the Dresser Formation in Western Australia are the oldest known fossil material on the planet. They date to 3,481,000,000 years old.

Above: A beautiful 12" Polished Slice.

Access to this material is exceedingly rare. We are fortunate enough to work with one of the only private mining companies with licenses to export this material from Australia. As such, all specimens were collected on private land and exported from Australia in accordance with all heritage and mining laws.

Above: Single specimens displayed on a small slab of rough material.

Earliest Life Specimens:

  • Classic Single Specimen - Hand cut from rough material, these small specimens measure ~5mm across. They are enclosed inside acrylic specimen jars and housed inside our classic, glass-topped riker display cases. The cases measure 4 1/2" x 3 1/2". A small information card is also enclosed that also serves as the certificate of authenticity. Color varies from gray to red as do shapes and thickness.
  • Rough Material - These large chunks of rough stromatolite material are priced and sold individually. They will come with individual certificates of authenticity and ship in a sturdy carton.
  • Polished Slabs - These showcase specimens have one side that is highly polished to reveal layers upon layers of ancient life. Priced and sold individually, they come with individual certificates of authenticity as well as the small stands you see pictured.

First Edition Note: Earliest Life joined the Mini Museum Collection as part of the First Edition. At the time, the Strelley Pool Stromatolites were the oldest known fossil remains of life on earth. Since then, new research has placed the North Pole Dome Stromatolites into the lead by more than 50,000,000 years. 

Above: A classic single specimen displayed with both rough and polished slabs alike. This material is truly magnificent.

More About Stromatolites

"The fossil record of the earliest life on Earth is sparse, and reconstructing the most ancient biota is challenging. Current interpretations of the diversity of Earth’s earliest life come predominantly from stromatolites." ~ Dr. Nora Noffke

Above: Artist's concept of the early Earth. In theory, the skies would be rather green at this time due to the lack of oxygen. Stromatolites in the foreground. (Source: Mini Museum)

Stromatolites first appeared in the fossil during the Archean Eon, 3 billion years ago. Cyanobacteria living in shallow pools of water formed large colonies, taking in light and carbon dioxide and producing mucus and calcium carbonate. Each layer of the microbial mat built upon the last, forming an intricate laminate structure, growing into fascinating patterns of limestone that would stand through the ages as evidence of the lives of the microscopic organisms.

Cyanobacteria have existed for an extremely long time and the traces of their early existence are one of the best records of the evolution of life and the environment of early Earth. Their age leads to plenty of variations in the appearance of stromatolites, with some patterns growing miles wide. They can also be found in many different shapes with flat, domical, branching, and conical formations.

Doctor Ernst Louis Kalkowsky (1851-1938) is generally credited with introducing the term "stromatolith" to science in his 1908 paper "Oolith und Stromatolith im norddeutschen Buntsandstein."

In this paper, Dr. Kalkowsky studied the Early Triassic stone of northern Germany's salt lakes. He hypothesized that the structures were microbial in origin, a theory that was immediately challenged by others in the scientific community.

As it turns out, not only was Kalkowsky correct but stromatolites are still being formed today. They can be found at the edges of hypersaline lakes and marshes in many areas of the world as well as shallow, warm seas like those around the Bahamas.


Above: Modern Stromatolites in Shark Bay, Western Australia.

Further Reading

Awramik, Stanley M. “Precambrian Columnar Stromatolite Diversity: Reflection of Metazoan Appearance.” Science, vol. 174, no. 4011, 1971, pp. 825–827.

Bosak, Tanja, et al. “The Meaning of Stromatolites.” Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, vol. 41, 2013, pp. 21-44.

Noffke, Nora, et al. "Microbially induced sedimentary structures recording an ancient ecosystem in the ca. 3.48 billion-year-old Dresser Formation, Pilbara, Western Australia." Astrobiology 13.12 (2013): 1103-1124.

Kalkowsky, Ernst. "Oolith und Stromatolith im norddeutschen Buntsandstein." Zeitschrift der deutschen geologischen Gesellschaft (1908): 68-125.

Above: The back of the Specimen Card.

 

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