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Ancient Life Form Discovered in Remote Tasmanian Valley

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Scientists have uncovered rare, living stromatolites deep within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The researchers made the discovery during a survey of peat-bound karstic wetlands – an unusual type of swamp that occurs only in peaty soils underlain by limestone and similar carbonate rocks.

Dr Bernadette Proemse of The University of Tasmania says living stromatolites were previously unknown from Tasmania. “The discovery reveals a unique and unexpected ecosystem in a remote valley in the state’s south-west,” Proemse said. “The ecosystem has developed around spring mounds where mineral-rich groundwater is forced to the surface by geological structures in underlying limestone rocks. The find has proved doubly interesting, because closer examination revealed that these spring mounds were partly built of living stromatolites.

“Stromatolites are laminated structures of microorganisms which have created layers of minerals using elements dissolved in the water in which they live. Fossil stromatolites are the oldest evidence for life on Earth – they first appeared 3.7 billion years ago!”

Mr Roland Eberhard of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water & Environment’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Division said that stromatolites are rare because more advanced life forms such as aquatic snails feed on the microorganisms required to form...

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