An international team of scientists, including geochemists from the University of California, Riverside, has uncovered new evidence linking extreme climate change, oxygen rise, and early animal evolution.
This photo shows researchers studying exposures of the Doushanto Formation. Located in China, the formation is most notable for its scientific contributions in the hunt for Precambrian life.
Credit: M. Kennedy
A dramatic rise in atmospheric oxygen levels has long been speculated as the trigger for early animal evolution. While the direct cause-and-effect relationships between animal and environmental evolution remain topics of intense debate, all this research has been hampered by the lack of direct evidence for an oxygen increase coincident with the appearance of the earliest animals — until now.
In the Sept. 27 issue of the journal Nature, the research team, led by scientists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, offers the first evidence of a direct link between trends in early animal diversity and shifts in Earth system processes.
The fossil record shows a marked increase in animal and algae fossils roughly 635 million years ago. An analysis of organic-rich rocks from South China points to a sudden spike in oceanic oxygen levels at this time — in the wake of severe glaciation. The new evidence pre-dates previous estimates of a life-sustaining oxygenation event by more than 50 million years.
"This work provides the first real evidence for a long speculated change in oxygen levels in the aftermath of the most severe climatic event in Earth's history — one of the so-called 'Snowball Earth' glaciations," said Timothy Lyons, a professor of biogeochemistry at UC Riverside.
The research team analyzed concentrations of trace metals and sulfur isotopes, which are tracers of early oxygen levels, in mudstone collected from the Doushantuo Formation in South China. The team found spikes in concentrations of the trace metals, denoting higher oxygen levels in seawater on a global scale.
"We found levels of molybdenum and vanadium in the Doushantuo Formation mudstones that necessitate that the global ocean was well ventilated. This well-oxygenated ocean was the environmental backdrop for early animal diversification," said Noah Planavsky, a former UCR graduate student in Lyons's lab now at CalTech.
The high element concentrations found in the South China rocks are comparable to modern ocean sediments and point to a substantial oxygen increase in the ocean-atmosphere system around 635 million years ago. According to the researchers, the oxygen rise is likely due to increased organic carbon burial, a result of more nutrient availability following the extreme cold climate of the 'Snowball Earth' glaciation when ice shrouded much of Earth's surface.
Lyons and Planavsky argued in research published earlier in the journal Nature that a nutrient surplus associated with the extensive glaciations may have initiated intense carbon burial and oxygenation. Burial of organic carbon — from photosynthetic organisms — in ocean sediments would result in the release of vast amounts of oxygen into the ocean-atmosphere system.
"We are delighted that the new metal data from the South China shale seem to be confirming these hypothesized events," Lyons said.
The joint research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the NASA Exobiology Program, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. Besides Lyons and Planavsky, the research team includes Swapan K. Sahoo (first author of the research paper) and Ganqing Jiang (principal investigator of the study) of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Brian Kendall and Ariel D. Anbar of Arizona State University; Xinqiang Wang and Xiaoying Shi of the China University of Geosciences (Beijing); and UCR alumnus Clint Scott of United States Geological Survey.
The University of California, Riverside is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 20,500 students. The campus will open a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion. A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.
Iqbal Pittalwala | EurekAlert!
Geophysicists and atmospheric scientists partner to track typhoons' seismic footprints
16.02.2018 | Princeton University
NASA finds strongest storms in weakening Tropical Cyclone Sanba
15.02.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).
Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
16.02.2018 | Information Technology
16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy