Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists find evolution of life

31.10.2003


A trio of scientists including a researcher from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has found that humans may owe the relatively mild climate in which their ancestors evolved to tiny marine organisms with shells and skeletons made out of calcium carbonate.



In a paper titled "Carbonate Deposition, Climate Stability and Neoproterozoic Ice Ages" in the Oct. 31 edition of Science, UC Riverside researchers Andy Ridgwell and Martin Kennedy along with LLNL climate scientist Ken Caldeira, discovered that the increased stability in modern climate may be due in part to the evolution of marine plankton living in the open ocean with shells and skeletal material made out of calcium carbonate. They conclude that these marine organisms helped prevent the ice ages of the past few hundred thousand years from turning into a severe global deep freeze.

"The most recent ice ages were mild enough to allow and possibly even promote the evolution of modern humans," Caldeira said. "Without these tiny marine organisms, the ice sheets may have grown to cover the earth, like in the snowball glaciations of the ancient past, and our ancestors might not have survived."


The researchers used a computer model describing the ocean, atmosphere and land surface to look at how atmospheric carbon dioxide would change as a result of glacier growth. They found that, in the distant past, as glaciers started to grow, the oceans would suck the greenhouse gas -- carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere -- making the Earth colder, promoting an even deeper ice age. When marine plankton with carbonate shells and skeletons are added to the model, ocean chemistry is buffered and glacial growth does not cause the ocean to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

But in Precambrian times (which lasted up until 544 million years ago), marine organisms in the open ocean did not produce carbonate skeletons -- and ancient rocks from the end of the Precambrian geological age indicate that huge glaciers deposited layers of crushed rock debris thousands of meters thick near the equator. If the land was frozen near the equator, then most of the surface of the planet was likely covered in ice, making Earth look like a giant snowball, the researchers said.

Around 200 million years ago, calcium carbonate organisms became critical to helping prevent the earth from freezing over. When the organisms die, their carbonate shells and skeletons settle to the ocean floor, where some dissolve and some are buried in sediments. These deposits help regulate the chemistry of the ocean and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, in a related study published in Nature on Sept. 25, 2003, Caldeira and LLNL physicist Michael Wickett found that unrestrained release of fossil-fuel carbon dioxide to the atmosphere could threaten extinction for these climate-stabilizing marine organisms.


Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Anne Stark | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Radioactivity from oil and gas wastewater persists in Pennsylvania stream sediments
22.01.2018 | Duke University

nachricht World’s oldest known oxygen oasis discovered
18.01.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors

22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

Radioactivity from oil and gas wastewater persists in Pennsylvania stream sediments

22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Saarland University bioinformaticians compute gene sequences inherited from each parent

22.01.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks Wissenschaft & Forschung
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>