Heliotropism in Modern Stromatolites

Science  14 Mar 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4743, pp. 1279-1281
DOI: 10.1126/science.231.4743.1279


Modern microbial mats and stromatolites exhibiting a preferred orientation toward specular sunlight were found at two sites. In Hamelin Pool of Shark Bay, Western Australia, subtidal decimeter-sized columns and intertidal centimeter-sized tufts were found pointing north. In thermal spring effluents and pools of Yellowstone National Park, mats were found with columnar and conical centimeter-sized structures inclined to the south. These examples of heliotropism in modern stromatolites are each built by a different community of photosynthetic microbes under markedly different environmental conditions. These new observations support the proposal that stromatolites can orient themselves toward the sun.