Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Climate changes locked inside microfossils


Fossilised remains of sea creatures are commonly found in rocks in the mountains of the Basque Country. So, at some time in the past, Euskal Herria was under the sea. For example, during the Palaeocene period, some 65-55 million years ago. The region was then subtropical, and similar in appearance to the Australian Coral Reef.

Along the Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa coast, around Eibar, in Irati and in Urbasa, for example, we can see Palaeocene outcrops at the surface. During that period there were collisions between the European and Iberian tectonic plates which pushed up earth mass that lay under the sea. These very collisions gave rise to the Pyrenees.

These Palaeocene rock outcrops are not at all common on the rest of the planet and, thus, in order to ascertain what happened during that period, researchers have an invaluable source of information in the Basque Country. Moreover, the area has another advantage: remains occur both of the sea crust and of the continental platform and its edge, given that the town of Zumaia at that time was submerged 1,000 metres below the sea while the Rioja Alavesa was above surface.

The importance of these rocks lies in the fact that, within them, remains which contain information on palaeoclimatic and palaeoecological changes that took place in the Palaeocene can be found: microfossils, for example. The data obtained from these miniscule creatures can prove to be very useful today in order to know about the evolution of global warming which is apparently taking place on Earth, just like now, the end of the Palaeocene saw a rapid rise in global warming.

Microfossils: data bank

A group of researchers at Leioa (the Bizkaia campus of the University of the Basque, Country) analysed microfossils, mainly planktonic foraminifers and calcareous nanofossils. These microorganisms lived in the earth’s crust at the bottom of the ocean and their fossils have been piling up over millions of years to the point of providing an unbeatable source of data.

These microorganisms are very sensitive to climatic or temperature changes and that is why some live in warm waters and others in cold. Thus, they are found in differentiated zones in the sea and so, if the sea temperature varies, these zones become modified and the microorganisms migrate with the changes from zone to zone. Thus, the fossil register for these microorganisms in any zone indicates the successive climatic changes that occurred during that era.

To analyse these microfossils it has to be taken into account that nowadays they form part of calcareous rocks or marls. For example, 80 % of the rocks formed during the Palaeocene at the bottom of the sea may be made up of these microfossils or, rather, of their shells.

In these analyses, researchers extract a small rock sample which is then broken up in water. Just one drop of this contains millions of microfossils. A drop is analysed under the microscope or with a magnifying glass, as the fossils are the approximate size of a few micras.

These investigations show up the different microfossil species found in the rock sample and the proportion of each are counted and analysed. In the rocks in the Basque Country more than 200 species of calcareous nanofossils and 175 of planktonic foraminifers have been identified. With the knowledge of which live in warm and which in cold waters, we can deduce what climatic changes happened in past times and have a good idea of what is likely to happen in the future.

Garazi Andonegi | Basque research
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Gas hydrate research: Advanced knowledge and new technologies
23.03.2018 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ

nachricht New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data
22.03.2018 | University of Southampton

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>