The 3.4-Ga Strelley Pool Formation (SPF) at the informally named 'Waterfall Locality' in the Goldsworthy greenstone belt of the Pilbara Craton, Western Australia, provides deeper insights into ancient, shallow subaqueous to possibly subaerial ecosystems. Outcrops at this locality contain a thin (<3 m) unit of carbonaceous and non-carbonaceous cherts and silicified sandstones that were deposited in a shallow-water coastal environment, with hydrothermal activities, consistent with the previous studies. Carbonaceous, sulfide-rich massive black cherts with coniform structures up to 3 cm high are characterized by diverse rare earth elements (REE) signatures including enrichment of light [light rare earth elements (LREE)] or middle rare earth elements and by enrichment of heavy metals represented by Zn. The massive black cherts were likely deposited by mixing of hydrothermal and non-hydrothermal fluids. Coniform structures in the cherts are characterized by diffuse laminae composed of sulfide particles, suggesting that unlike stromatolites, they were formed dominantly through physico-chemical processes related to hydrothermal activity. The cherts yield microfossils identical to previously described carbonaceous films, small and large spheres, and lenticular microfossils. In addition, new morphological types such as clusters composed of large carbonaceous spheroids (20-40 μm across each) with fluffy or foam-like envelope are identified. Finely laminated carbonaceous cherts are devoid of heavy metals and characterized by the enrichment of LREE. This chert locally contains conical to domal structures characterized by truncation of laminae and trapping of detrital grains and is interpreted as siliceous stromatolite formed by very early or contemporaneous silicification of biomats with the contribution of silica-rich hydrothermal fluids. Biological affinities of described microfossils and microbes constructing siliceous stromatolites are under investigation. However, this study emphasizes how diverse the microbial community in Paleoarchean coastal hydrothermal environment was. We propose the diversity is at least partially due to the availability of various energy sources in this depositional environment including reducing chemicals and sunlight.
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