Navigation Links
Decline of carbon-dioxide-gobbling plankton coincided with ancient global cooling
Date:1/8/2009

ITHACA, N.Y. The evolutionary history of diatoms -- abundant oceanic plankton that remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year -- needs to be rewritten, according to a new Cornell study. The findings suggest that after a sudden rise in species numbers, diatoms abruptly declined about 33 million years ago -- trends that coincided with severe global cooling.

The study is published in the Jan. 8 issue of the journal Nature.

The research casts doubt on the long-held theory that diatoms' success was tied to an influx of nutrients into the oceans from the rise of grasslands about 18 million years ago. New evidence from a study led by graduate student Dan Rabosky of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology takes into account a widespread problem in paleontology: that younger fossils are easier to find than older ones.

"We just tried to address the simple fact that the number of available fossils is colossally greater from recent time periods than from earlier time periods," Rabosky said. "It's a pretty standard correction in some fields, but it hasn't been applied to planktonic paleontology up till now."

More than 90 percent of known diatom fossils are younger than 18 million years. So an unadjusted survey of diatom fossils suggests that more diatom species were alive in the recent past than 18 million years ago.

The dearth of early fossils is understandable. Sampling for diatom fossils requires immense drill ships to bore into seafloor sediment. To find an ancient fossil, scientists first have to find ancient sediment -- and that's no easy task because plate tectonics constantly shift the ocean floor, fossils and all. Much of the seafloor is simply too young to sample.

So Rabosky and co-author Ulf Sorhannus of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania controlled for how many samples had been taken from each million-year period of the Earth's history, going back 40 million years. After reanalysis, the long-accepted boom in diatoms over the last 18 million years disappeared. In its place was a slow recent rise, with a much more dramatic increase and decline at the end of the Eocene epoch, about 33 million years ago.

With the new timeline, diatoms achieved their peak diversity at least 10 million years before grasslands became commonplace.

"If there was a truly significant change in diatom diversity at all, it happened 30 million years ago," Rabosky said. "The shallow, gradual increase we see is totally different from the kind of exponential increase you would expect if grasslands were the cause."

As an example of that kind of increase, Rabosky turned to another fossil record: horse teeth. Before grasslands, horses had small teeth suited for chewing soft leaves. But as grasslands appeared, much hardier teeth appeared adapted to a lifetime of chewing tough, silica-studded grass leaves. Diatoms ought to show a similar evolutionary response to the sudden availability of silica, Rabosky said, but they don't.

Although the new results don't explain the current prevalence of diatoms in the ocean, Rabosky said that whatever led to diatoms' rise at the end of the Eocene, the tiny organisms may have contributed to the global cooling that followed.

"Why diatom diversity peaked for 4 to 5 million years and then dropped is a big mystery," Rabosky said. "But it corresponds with a period when the global climate swung from hothouse to icehouse. It's tempting to speculate that these tiny plankton, by taking carbon dioxide out of the air, might have helped trigger the most severe global cooling event in the past 100 million years."


'/>"/>

Contact: Blaine Friedlander
bpf2@cornell.edu
607-254-8093
Cornell University Communications
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Global warming link to amphibian declines in doubt
2. Pollinator decline not reducing crop yields just yet
3. Wildflower declines in Thoreaus Concord woods are due to climate changes
4. Vitamin K does not stem BMD decline in postmenopausal women with osteopenia
5. In a last stronghold for endangered chimpanzees, survey finds drastic decline
6. Decline in Alaskan sea otters affects bald eagles diet
7. In scientific first, Einstein researchers correct decline in organ function associated with old age
8. River damming leads to dramatic decline in native fish numbers
9. Great Ape Trusts Wich lead author of Oryx paper on continuing orangutan population declines
10. Understanding autumn rain decline in SE Australia
11. NOAA reports coastal waters show decline in contaminants
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/9/2016)... -- Elevay is currently known as the ... high net worth professionals seeking travel for work   ... there is still no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. ... deal with a firm handshake. This is why wealthy ... citizenship via investment programs like those offered by the ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... -- Research and Markets has announced the ...  report to their offering.  , ,     (Logo: ... forecast the global multimodal biometrics market to grow ... 2016-2020.  Multimodal biometrics is being implemented ... healthcare, BFSI, transportation, automotive, and government for controlling ...
(Date:4/13/2016)... 2016  IMPOWER physicians supporting Medicaid patients in ... clinical standard in telehealth thanks to a new partnership ... platform, IMPOWER patients can routinely track key health measurements, ... index, and, when they opt in, share them with ... a local retail location at no cost. By leveraging ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... /PRNewswire/ - BIOREM Inc. (TSX-V: BRM) ("Biorem" or "the Company") ... shareholders, Clean Technology Fund I, LP and Clean Technology ... based venture capital funds which together hold approximately 59% ... diluted, as converted basis), that they have entered into ... holdings in Biorem to TUS Holdings Co. Ltd. ("TUS") ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... , ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... bring innovative medical technologies, services and solutions to the healthcare market. The company's ... of various distribution, manufacturing, sales and marketing strategies that are necessary to help ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 2016  Regular discussions on a range of subjects including ... two entities said Poloz. Speaking at a lecture ... , he pointed to the country,s inflation target, which is ... "In certain areas there ... common economic goals, why not sit down and address strategy ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced ... this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. , ...
Breaking Biology Technology: