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First animals oxygenated the ocean, study suggests
Date:3/9/2014

eding animals inadvertently increased the removal of the essential nutrient phosphorus in the ocean. This in turn reduced the productivity of the whole ocean ecosystem, suppressing oxygen demand and thus oxygenating the deep ocean.

A more oxygen-rich ocean created ideal conditions for more mobile animals to evolve, because they have a higher requirement for oxygen. These included the first predatory animals with guts that started to eat one another, marking the beginning of a modern marine biosphere, with the type of food webs we are familiar with today.

Professor Lenton added: "The effects we predict suggest that the first animals, far from being a passive response to rising atmospheric oxygen, were the active agents that oxygenated the ocean around 600 million years ago. They created a world in which more complex animals could evolve, including our very distant ancestors."

Professor Simon Poulton of the University of Leeds, who is a co-author of the study, added: ″This study provides a plausible mechanism for ocean oxygenation without the requirement for a rise in atmospheric oxygen. It therefore questions whether the long-standing belief that there was a major rise in atmospheric oxygen at this time is correct. We simply don't know the answer to this at present, which is ultimately key to understanding how our planet evolved to its current habitable state. Geochemists need to come up with new ways to decipher oxygen levels on the early Earth.″


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Contact: Eleanor Gaskarth
e.f.gaskarth@exeter.ac.uk
44-782-730-9332
University of Exeter
Source:Eurekalert  

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First animals oxygenated the ocean, study suggests
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