World's oldest living fossils - Stromatolites - Stocking Island, Exuma
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Stromatolites are the oldest living fossils on Earth, dating back 3.5 billion years. They were thought to be long extinct until discovered in Shark Bay, Australia in 1959. More recently they have been discovered in a few other places including the Exumas. They are significant as they are believed to be one of the first organisms to create oxygen on earth by means of photosynthesis. Today, they only exist in relatively extreme and unusual ocean environments. The secret in the Exumas appears to be high levels of dissolved oxygen combined with high sunlight and relatively constant temperature. (If I was going to hide out on Earth for 3.5 billion years, I would choose Australia and Exuma too!) The Stromatolites in the Exumas are the only ones known to still exist in open ocean, significant because they were likely plentiful in this state billions of years ago as they literally created our atmosphere. You can go diving to see them on some diving excursions to remote cays. Smaller ones are actually visible from the beach in particular spots on Great and Little Exuma.
They are single cell organisms that form into what looks like a flat rock or an unusual coral like structure. To be honest, they are not much to look at but when you consider their scientific significance and relative rarity on earth, it is worth a quick diversion while traveling around...if nothing else it is a good opportunity to release your inner science geek. The easiest ones to find are on the ocean side of Stocking Island near St Francis resort and are an interesting point of interest on a beach hike. For a blog on hiking trails and maps including where to find Stromatolites on Stocking Island click here. References: greenantilles.com/2011/04/06/stromatolites-still-alive-and-thriving-in-the-bahamas/ curiosity.discovery.com/question/stromatolites-explain-first-life-earth absci.fiu.edu/2013/01/feature-paper-bahamas-stromatolites/