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Lateral gene transfer belies the concept of the single common ancestor (see Woese, 1998).

While formation by colonies of cyanobacteria is probably the primary mechanism for formation of surviving stromatolites in the deep time of the Archaean and half way through the Proterozoic, it is unlikely to have been the only mechanism.

The figure indicates the paucity of localities where finding the oldest fossils exists. As previously noted, stromatolites are most often described as biogenically-produced structures formed by colonies of photosynthesizing cyanobacteria.

However, this is an enormous oversimplification given that the weight of scientific evidence suggests that all three domains of life (the Archaeans, Eubacteria, and Eukaryotes) appeared in the Archaean Era, and thus the so-called microbial mats would have contained representatives among all three domains.

A common definition goes something like: A lamiated rock formed by the growth of blue-green algae (i.e., cyanobacteria)".

This definition is, in fact, such a gross oversimplification as be scientifically useless.

In broad terms, stromatolites are fossil evidence of the prokaryotic life that remains today, as it has always been, the preponderance of biomass in the biosphere.

We can presume that the microbial communities consisted of complex consortia of species with diverse metabolic needs, and that competition for resources and differing motility among them created the intricate structures we observe in these ancient fossils.Stromatolites are not only Earth's oldest of fossils, but are intriguing in that they are our singular visual portal (except for phylogenetic determination of conserved nucleic acid sequences and some subtle molecular fossils) into deep time on earth, the emergence of life, and the evolving of the beautiful forms of life of modern time.A small piece of stromatolites encodes biological activity perhaps spanning thousands of years.They maintain and recycle the atomic ingredients of which proteins, the essence of life, are made, including oxygen, nitrogen and carbon.We humans are, in simple terms, bags of water filled with proteins and prokaryotic bacteria (the bacteria in your body outnumber the cells in your body about 10 to 1).

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So too have many Stromatolites from the Proterozoic.

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