Sunday, 20 September 2009

Nothing New Under the Sun: Living Stromatolites in the Andes


Joel Kontinen

In Argentina, the Andes give shelter to fascinating formations that makes one think of what the Israeli King Solomon said 3000 years ago: ”There is nothing new under the sun”. Recently, a research group led by María Eugenia Farías, an Argentinian microbiologist, found living stromatolites in a salt lake 3600 metres above sea level.

Stromatolites are rocky dome-shaped formations made by blue-green bacteria. Millions of lime-secreting micro-organisms have left – and are still leaving – signs of life in nature.

According to the Darwinian story, stromatolites ruled our planet
during the early history of Earth.
The oldest stromatolite fossils have been dated at 3,45 billion years. They do not differ considerably from their relatives currently living on the Andes and elsewhere.

This is not the first time that living stromatolites have been discovered. Stromatolites flourish in harsh conditions. They disclose that some creatures resist change for long periods of time. Perhaps, like other living fossils they have forgotten that even during Charles Darwin’s bicentennial evolution is often defined as change.


Belluscio, Ann. 2009. High window on the past. Microbiologists find living stromatolites in the Andes. Nature news (17 September)

Oxford Dictionary of Science. 2006. Oxford: Oxford University Press.