Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Oxygen increase caused mammals to triumph, researchers say


The first, high resolution continuous record of oxygen concentration in the earth’s atmosphere shows that a sharp rise in oxygen about 50 million years ago gave mammals the evolutionary boost they needed to dominate the planet, according to Paul Falkowski, Rutgers professor of marine science and lead author of a paper published Sept. 30 in the journal Science.

Falkowski and his colleagues have measured the abundance of carbon 13, a byproduct of photosynthesis, in deep-sea core samples that go back 205 million years. Because photosynthesis produces oxygen and leaves carbon 13 behind, the presence of carbon 13 in the fossil samples allows scientists to estimate precisely how much oxygen was in the atmosphere at any given time, Falkowski says.

From a steady 10 percent – the level at which dinosaurs flourished – the oxygen percentage rose to 17 percent 50 million years ago and then to 23 percent by 40 million years ago.

"In the fossil record, we see that see that this rise in oxygen content corresponds exactly to a really rapid rise of large, placental mammals," Falkowski says. "The more oxygen, the bigger the mammals. We argue that the rise in oxygen content allowed mammals to become very, very large – mammals like 12-foot-tall sloths and huge saber-toothed cats. They paved the way for all subsequent large mammals, including ourselves."

The results described in Falkowski’s article, "The Rise of Oxygen Over the Past 205 Million Years and the Evolution of Large Placental Mammals," stem from years of analysis of organic and inorganic core samples. Scientists have been using deep-sea core samples for years, but Falkowski and his colleagues have achieved greater precision in their measurements, thanks to two high-precision, isotope ratio mass spectrometers housed in the geological sciences department at Rutgers.

There were placental mammals on Earth at the time of the great extinction of dinosaurs about 65 million years ago, Falkowski says. They were, however, tiny, limited creatures; the extinction event itself, while eliminating the dinosaurs, did little to further the mammalian domination of the planet. It was the subsequent spreading of shallow seas, the increase in plant life – and photosynthesis – in addition to the consequent increase in oxygen content that gave the mammals the boost they needed, according to Falkowski.

In the last 10 million years, the percentage of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere has decreased to 21 percent. Falkowski says many scientists believed that great fires burned over the earth about 10 million years ago, reducing the number of trees and, therefore, the amount of photosynthesis and oxygen.

Ken Branson | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica
26.10.2016 | University of California - Irvine

nachricht Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere
25.10.2016 | American Geophysical Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>