Archean Stromatolites as Microbial Archives

  • H. J. Hofmann


Stromatolites are morphologically circumscribed accretionary growth structures with a primary lamination that is, or may be, biologically influenced (biogenic). They are found in Archean sedimentary carbonate rocks, almost always associated with extensive volcanic sequences. Thirty-two occurrences have been reported from n small regional clusters representing the world’s principal preserved Archean cratons: North America 16, Africa 7, Australia 5, Asia 3, and Europe s; none are presently known from Archean rocks of South America and Antarctica; less than two dozen of the occurrences are viewed as definitely Archean and stromatolitic. The earliest stromatolite records date back to nearly 3.5 Ga, and their worldwide distribution and abundance increase as time progresses.

Morphological types include structures with flat, convex-up, concave-up, and globoidal laminae; stacking patterns producing nodular, columnar (unbranched as well as branched), and oncoidal forms are represented. The observed diameters of the structures show a gradual increase in size as the stratigraphic column is ascended, spread over two orders of magnitude in geon 34 (centimetric to decimetric), but ranging over six orders of magnitude by geon 25 (sub-millimetric to dekametric). Unlike Proterozoic stromatolites, most are developed in limestones rather than dolostones, with sideritic/ankeritic and cherty types also present. Microfossils are only very rarely preserved. Ministromatolites with radial-fibrous microstructure, probably almost exclusively the result of chemical precipitation, developed after 3.0 Ga, as did mesoscopic aragonite/calcite crystal fans, indicating carbonate supersaturation of ambient Meso-and Neoarchean ocean waters.


Geol Surv Archean Craton Northern Cape Province Transvaal Supergroup Biologic Contribution 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. J. Hofmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeologyUniversity of MontrealMontrealCanada

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