We report here the discovery of giant lithified subtidal columnar stromatolites (>2 m high) growing in 7-8 m of clear oceanic water in current-swept channels between the Exuma Islands on the eastern Bahama Bank. They grow by trapping ooid and pelletal carbonate sand and synsedimentary precipitation of carbonate cement within a field of giant megaripples. The discovery is important to geologists and biologists because similar organo-sedimentary structures built by a combination of cementation and the trapping of sediment by microbes were the dominant fossil types during the Precambrian. Stromatolites are thought to have been responsible for the production of free oxygen and thus the evolution of animal life1,2. Until the discovery of small lithified subtidal columnar stromatolites in the Bahamas3, the only subtidal marine examples known to be living while undergoing lithification were in the hypersaline waters of Hamelin Pool at Shark Bay, Western Australia4-7. Shark Bay stromatolites range from intertidal to the shallow subtidal with the larger columns reaching 1 m in height. The Shark Bay stromatolites have strongly influenced geological interpretation; by analogy, many ancient stromatolites have been considered to have grown in intertidal and/or hypersaline conditions8, although hypersalinity was not a necessity for growth during the Precambrian because grazing metazoan life had not then evolved. ?? 1986 Nature Publishing Group.
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Giant subtidal stromatolites forming in normal salinity waters