The natural wonder that holds the key to the origins of life – and warns of its destruction

The natural wonder that holds the key to the origins of life – and warns of its destruction

streamStromatolite-building bacteria once ruled the Earth, then changed its climate so much they nearly became extinct. Michael Slezak visits the world’s largest surviving colony in Hamelin pool, Western Australia

 Michael Slezak

Just shy of the westernmost tip of the Australian continent lies a pool that provides an unparalleled window into the origins of life on Earth. In its warm, briny waters a biological process takes place that began just as the continents were starting to form.

It is this very process that made the abundance of life on the planet possible and studying it today promises insights into how life began as well as what the Earth was like 3.7bn years ago.

It is also a cautionary tale about an organism that dominated the Earth and transformed its atmosphere – then found itself unable to live with the result. Read more.