Coniform stromatolites are found in several sites in the Tokaanu and Whakarewarewa geothermal areas of North Island, New Zealand. At Tokaanu, silicification of these stromatolites is taking place in Kirihoro, a shallow hot spring-fed pool. At Whakarewarewa, subfossil silicified coniform stromatolites are found on the floor of “Waikite Pool” on the discharge apron below Waikite Geyser, and in an old sinter succession at Te Anarata. The microbes in the coniform stromatolites from Tokaanu, Waikite Pool, and Te Anarata have been well preserved through rapid silicification. Nevertheless, subtle differences in the silicification style induced morphological variations that commonly mask or alter morphological features needed for identification of the microbes in terms of extant taxa.
The coniform stromatolites in the New Zealand hot-spring pools are distinctive because (1) they are formed of upward tapering (i.e., conical) columns, (2) neighboring columns commonly are linked by vertical sheets or bridges, (3) internally, they are formed of alternating high- and low-porosity laminae that have a conical vertical profile, and (4) Phormidium form more than 90% of the biota. As such, they are comparable to modern coniform mats and stromatolites found in the geothermal systems of Yellowstone National Park and ice-covered lakes in Antarctica.
Formation of the coniform stromatolites is restricted to pools that are characterized by low current energy and a microflora that is dominated by Phormidium. These delicate and intricate stromatolites could not form in areas characterized by fast flowing water or a diverse microflora. Thus, it appears that the distribution of these distinctive stromatolites is controlled by biological constraints that are superimposed on environmental needs.