Noffke and her colleagues mapped the fossilized microbial community down to the millimeter scale in rocks from the Pilbara district of western Australia. That district already claimed paleontological fame for the window on ancient life provided by fossilized stromatolites from there. Stromatolites look like large rocky mushrooms or cow poop plops. For the past 3.5 billion years, microscopic life has constructed the stony lumps by trapping sediments.
PHOTOS: Life in Australia's Great Barrier Reef
Stromatolites once dominated ancient seashores. Now, they form only in a few locations, including Shark Bay, on the coast of western Australia relatively close to where both the fossilized MISS and ancient stromatolites exist.
Top Image: A modern day bacterial mat in run-off from Black Pool at West Thumb, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. (Acroterion, Wikimedia Commons)