Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve, the only marine nature reserve in Western Australia, is one of only two places in the world with living examples of marine stromatolites. The dome-shaped structures are formed by tiny organisms too small for the eye to see.
Stromatolites are able to survive in the area because Hamelin Pool's water is twice as saline as normal sea water and seagrasses and many other forms of life cannot survive there.
The stromatolites look like rocky lumps strewn in the shallows. Living inside them are communities of diverse inhabitants with population densities of 3000 million individuals per square metre! The organisms use sediment and organic material to build stromatolites up to 1.5 metres high - up to 10 million times their size. Because they grow very slowly, a metre-high stromatolite could be about 2000 years old!
A timber boardwalk at Hamelin Pool gives visitors great views of the stromatolites. Information panels on the boardwalk are a good way to find out about the beginnings of life on Earth. The living microbes that built the stromatolites are similar to those found in 3500 million year old rocks, which are the earliest record of life on Earth.
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