Hamelin Pool, Shark Bay, Western Australia, is home to the largest and most diverse assemblage of living marine stromatolites, with shapes and sizes comparable to ancient structures. A recent field-intensive program revealed seasonally ephemeral occurrences of modern dendrolitic microbial mats forming in intertidal, low energy settings. Dominated by filamentous cyanobacteria, dendrolitic microbial mats are formed when filaments provide a supporting framework as a result of gliding mobility, to build a shrubby morphology. Dendrolites, known throughout the rock record, refer to macroscopic microbialites with mesostuctures composed of unlaminated arborescent structures called shrubs. In these modern examples, thick filaments of Lyngbya aestuarii
form the “trunk” of the bush, with finer filaments of Lyngbya fragilis
sp. and Schizothrix
sp. forming the “branches” These biologically-influenced dendrolitic structures provide insight into the complex interplay of microbial communities and the environment, broadening our understanding of shrub and dendrolite formation throughout the rock record.
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