Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ancient marine algae provides clues of climate change im pact on today’s microscopic ocean organisms

28.11.2014

A study of ancient marine algae, led by the University of Southampton, has found that climate change affected their growth and skeleton structure, which has potential significance for today’s equivalent microscopic organisms that play an important role in the world’s oceans.

Coccolithophores, a type of marine algae, are prolific in the ocean today and have been for millions of years. These single-celled plankton produce calcite skeletons that are preserved in seafloor sediments after death. Although coccolithophores are microscopic, their abundance makes them key contributors to marine ecosystems and the global carbon cycle.


The image shows a scanning electron micrograph of fossil coccolithophore species Coccolithus pelagicus. The fossil is from New Jersey and is around 56 million years old. Credit: Paul Bown at UCL

There is, therefore, much current interest in how coccolithophore calcification might be affected by climate change and ocean acidification, both of which occur as atmospheric carbon dioxide increases.

The research, published in Nature Communications, examined preserved fossil remains of coccolithophores from a period of climate warming and ocean acidification that occurred around 56 million years ago – the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) – and provides a much-needed long-term perspective of coccolithophore response to ocean acidification.

Dr Sarah O’Dea, from Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton and lead author of the study, says: “Our results show that climate change significantly altered coccolithophore calcification rates at the PETM and has the potential to be just as significant, perhaps even more so, today. Ultimately then, it is the factors that influence where species live, their abundance, how fast they grow and their ability to adapt to environmental change that is likely to control future coccolithophore calcite production.”

The study investigated two key PETM coccolithophores, Coccolithus pelagicus and Toweius pertusus, both of which are directly related to species that dominate the modern ocean.

It found that calcification rates of C. pelagicus and T. pertusus halved during the PETM, due to changes in environmental factors that influenced their growth. The response of each species was, however, different, and involved intervals of slowed growth in C. pelagicus and an overall reduction in the size of the skeletal components – coccoliths – in T. pertusus. Intriguingly though, there was very little evidence for any response to ocean acidification, other than perhaps a slight thinning of C. pelagicus coccoliths..

Dr Samantha Gibbs, from Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton, who was Dr O’Dea’s PhD supervisor and co-author of the study, says: “A key objective was to record calcification in fossil coccolithophores in a way that enabled direct comparison with measurements from living specimens. Our novel technique involved analysing coccolithophore skeletal remains and applying observations from modern specimens to estimate, for the first time, calcification rates of fossil coccolithophores.”

The study, which also involved researchers from the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton and University College London, was funded by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) studentship to Dr O’Dea and a Royal Society Research Fellowship to Dr Gibbs, Senior Research Fellow in Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton, with additional support by the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme.

Notes for editors
1. The attached image shows a scanning electron micrograph of fossil coccolithophore species Coccolithus pelagicus. The fossil is from New Jersey and is around 56 million years old. Credit: Paul Bown at UCL.

2. A copy of the study ‘Coccolithophore calcification response to past
ocean acidification and climate change’ by Sarah A. O’Dea, Samantha J. Gibbs, Paul R. Bown, Jeremy R. Young, Alex J. Poulton, Cherry Newsam and Paul A. Wilson (DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6363) is available from Media Relations on request.

3. Through world-leading research and enterprise activities, the University of Southampton connects with businesses to create real-world solutions to global issues. Through its educational offering, it works with partners around the world to offer relevant, flexible education, which trains students for jobs not even thought of. This connectivity is what sets Southampton apart from the rest; we make connections and change the world. http://www.southampton.ac.uk/

http://www.southampton.ac.uk/weareconnected

#weareconnected
For more information:

Glenn Harris, Media Relations, University of Southampton, Tel 023 8059 3212, email G.Harris@soton.ac.uk, Twitter: @glennh75

www.soton.ac.uk/mediacentre/

Follow us on twitter: http://twitter.com/unisouthampton

Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/unisouthampton

Glenn Harris | AlphaGalileo

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>