Stromatolites of Shark Bay

Shark Bay has the world’s most diverse and abundant examples of living marine stromatolites. These ‘living fossils’ have helped scientists unravel the history of life on Earth. The stromatolites were a major factor in Shark Bay being declared a World Heritage Area. Learn how the marine geology is so important in the life of stromatolites here.

  • Underwater photo of stromatolites
  • Photo of Hamelin Pool stromatolites
  • Underwater photo of stromatolites in Shark Bay

Living fossils

Stromatolites are rock-like structures built by microbes (single-celled cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae). Shark Bay’s stromatolites are only 2,000 to 3,000 years old, but they are similar to life forms found on Earth up to 3.5 billion years ago! They provide a unique insight into what the world was like at the dawn of time.

Stromatolite fact sheet icon

For more information head on over to our fact sheet

What do stromatolites look like underwater?

Stromatolite video link

Where to see the stromatolites

Stromatolites at low tide in Hamelin Pool

Hamelin Pool is one of only three places on Earth where you can see living marine stromatolites. (The other two places are in the Bahamas.) Stromatolites are found in Hamelin Pool because its water is twice as salty as normal seawater. Few predators and competitors can survive these conditions, allowing the microbes to flourish and form stromatolites much as they did billions of years ago. Find out how to get to Hamelin Pool here.