Modern stromatolites in open marine environments, unknown until recently, are common throughout the Exuma Cays, Bahamas. They occur in three distinct settings: subtidal tidal passes, subtidal sandy embayments and intertidal beaches. These stromatolites have a relief of up to 2.5 m and occur in water depths ranging from intertidal to 10 m. Surfaces near the sediment-water interface are typically colonized by cyanobacterial mats, whereas high relief surfaces are commonly colonized by algal turf and other macroalgae such as Batophora, Acetabularia, and Sargassum. The internal structure of the stromatolites is characterized by millimeter-scale lamination defined by differential lithification of agglutinated sediment. In thin section, the lithified laminae appear as micritic horizons with distinct microstructures: they consist of thin micritic crusts (20-40 μm thick) overlying layers of micritized sediment grains (200-1000 μm thick); the micritized grains are cemented at point-contacts and are trucated along a surface of intense microboring. The Exuma stromatolites are built by cyanobacterial-dominated communities. These laminated prokaryotic structures grade to unlayered thrombolites built by eukaryotic algae. The variety of sites, settings and shapes of stromatolites in the Exuma Cays present excellent opportunities for future studies of stromatolite morphogenesis.
- Holocene or Recent
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