Morphological record of oxygenic photosynthesis in conical stromatolites

Tanja Bosak, Biqing Liang, Sub Sim Min, Alexander P. Petroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Citations (Scopus)


Conical stromatolites are thought to be robust indicators of the presence of photosynthetic and phototactic microbes in aquatic environments as early as 3.5 billion years ago. However, phototaxis alone cannot explain the ubiquity of disrupted, curled, and contorted laminae in the crests of many Mesoproterozoic, Paleoproterozoic, and some Archean conical stromatolites. Here, we demonstrate that cyanobacterial production of oxygen in the tips of modern conical aggregates creates contorted laminae and submillimeter-to-millimeter-scale enmeshed bubbles. Similarly sized fossil bubbles and contorted laminae may be present only in the crestal zones of some conical stromatolites 2.7 billion years old or younger. This implies not only that cyanobacteria built Proterozoic conical stromatolites but also that fossil bubbles may constrain the timing of the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10939-10943
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jul 7

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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