Fossilized Algae

Did you know algae are the oldest fossils found on Earth that can be seen with the naked eye?

I have picked up several fossilized samples of algae from Lake Michigan’s Oval Beach in Southwestern Michigan (USA) shown below. Algae come in a variety of shapes and forms. They range from single-cell organisms, such as microscopic phytoplankton and diatoms, to multicellular bodies, such as in the case of giant kelp that can grow as tall as 65 meters (200 feet).

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Fossilized Algae found on Oval Beach, Saugatuck, Michigan, USA

Why is algae important to you and me?

The answer to the question is that algae are the most important photosynthesizing organisms on Earth! A byproduct of photosynthesis is oxygen. Algae produces more oxygen from the sun’s energy than all other plants combined.

They also form a beneficial partnership with other organisms such as with reef building coral, which over time, constructs limestone.

Fossilized algae has been dated as far back as 1.7 billion years ago.

Flip side of algae fossil with unidentified patterns
Flip Side of Fossilized Algae Shown Above

Shown below is a sample of petrified algae I purchased years ago that was tumbled and polished smooth. This algae once flourished in warm seas over what is now the US state of Minnesota. It is estimated to have lived nearly two billion years ago. The algae has been petrified or replaced with jasper. Jasper is a type of quartz that is dense and finely grained with up to 20% foreign materials that determines the color.

Petrified Algae replaced with Jasper
Petrified Algae replaced with Jasper

Algae are defined as a group of predominantly aquatic, photosynthetic, and nucleus-bearing organisms that lack the true roots, stems, leaves, and specialized multicellular reproductive structures of plants.

Fossilized Algae Found on Lake Michigan Beach

Ten thousand years ago, the glaciers scraped up Devonian aged seabed creating the Great Lakes. In the processes, they released thousands of unburied treasures, including fossilized algae, that continually wash ashore, and today, we humans enjoy the privilege of discovering the secrets of their past.

Fossilized algae molds found along Lake Michigan shores embedded in claystone infused with iron.

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