Living rock-like structures known as thrombolites have formed on the edges of Lake Clifton, and can be viewed from a boardwalk.
The most striking things about the thrombolites are their limestone colour and rounded shape. The thrombolite-building micro-organisms are too small for the human eye to see and resemble the earliest forms of life on Earth. The discovery of modern examples helped scientists to understand the significance of micro-organisms in the environment and unravel the long history of life on Earth.
Scientists know little about the thrombolites and why they form at Lake Clifton, but one theory is that they form because the lake is associated with upwellings of fresh groundwater that is high in calcium carbonate. The micro-organisms living in this environment are able to precipitate calcium carbonate from the waters as they photosynthesise, forming the mineralised structure that is the thrombolite.
Lake Clifton’s thrombolites are very fragile, so an observation walkway has been built for visitors to enjoy these incredible formations while protecting them from damage.
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