Mexico’s three-billion-year-old underwater lifeforms

Famous for its brilliant seven shades of blue, Lake Bacalar is home to an ancient population of stromatolites that are around 3.5 billion years old.T

The beauty of Lake Bacalar, according to Claudio Del Valle, goes deeper than the Mexican lagoon’s seven brilliant shades of blue, which range from bright turquoise to deep cobalt. Actually, the local tour guide says, up to 100m deeper – to the limestone bottom of the lake, which is home to the oldest life on the planet. Del Valle says that the most important thing when visiting the long, skinny lake near the Belize border is to leave no trace. He spent years taking groups on stand-up paddle boarding tours before dawn as the sun threw early light over the lagoon and sparkling thalassic hues matured out of the inky night.

“Thanks to the paddle boarding, I had the chance to explore most of the lagoon… it was so unique, so majestic, so beautiful,” he said. “The clarity of the water makes this unique colouration of blue to green; it was delightful just to appreciate.”

But the “Lake of Seven Colours” is under grave threat, Del Valle says, which could not only permanently change the colour of the lake but also lead to the destruction of an ancient population of stromatolites, a living fossil that predates humans, dinosaurs and even plants.

Del Valle moved to Bacalar in 2017 following the 7.1-magnitude Puebla earthquake, which left him with post-traumatic stress. On the advice of a psychologist friend, he departed his home of San Cristóbal de las Casas, 700km south-west of Bacalar, in search of a more tranquil environment. He was blown away by what he found. “It was paradise,” he said, of seeing Bacalar’s lagoon for the first time. “You couldn’t believe the sunrise and the sunset, every one was so unique. But now I can see what is happening… it breaks my heart, it is wrong.”

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