Climate scientists have discovered a new archive of historical sea temperatures. With the help of the skeleton of a sponge that belongs to the Monorhaphis chuni species and that lived for 11,000 years in the East China Sea an international team around scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry could show that the deep ocean temperature changed several times over the past millennia.
Microscopic image of a glass sponge. The image shows a one millimeter cross section of the skeleton of Monorhaphis chuni. The lamellae grew inside outwards during the 11,000 years. The chemical elements incorporated during this period show that the water temperature in its environment changed significantly several times. Picture: Werner E. G. Müller, University Medical Center Mainz.
Skeleton of the glass sponge Monorhaphis chuni in the hands of Xiaohong Wang. The more than two meters long silica skeleton is flexible and resembles a fiberglass rod. Picture: Werner E. G. Müller, University Medical Center Mainz
As isotopic and elemental analyses showed, the sea water temperature in the vicinity of the sponge increased at least once from less than two degrees Celsius to six to ten degrees Celsius. These temperature changes were not previously known and are due to eruptions of seamounts.The deep sea is full of unknown creatures, but it is new to find one with which one can trace back thousand years of climate changes. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz have now determined the age of a more than two meters long and one centimeter thick glass sponge to be about 11,000 years. It is among the longest living animal species that exist today. From this animal`s skeleton the researchers can also read how its environment and the climate changed during its life.
Dr. Wolfgang Huisl | Max-Planck-Institut
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