Navigation Links
Research shows how life might have survived 'snowball Earth'
Date:10/11/2011

Global glaciation likely put a chill on life on Earth hundreds of millions of years ago, but new research indicates that simple life in the form of photosynthetic algae could have survived in a narrow body of water with characteristics similar to today's Red Sea.

"Under those frigid conditions, there are not a lot of places where you would expect liquid water and light to occur in the same area, and you need both of those things for photosynthetic algae to survive," said Adam Campbell, a University of Washington doctoral student in Earth and space sciences.

A long, narrow body of water such as the Red Sea, about 6.5 times longer than it is wide, would create enough physical resistance to advancing glacial ice that the ice sheet likely could not make it all the way to the end of the sea before conditions cause the ice to turn to vapor. That would leave a small expanse of open water where the algae could survive.

"The initial results have shown pretty well that these kinds of channels could remain relatively free of thick glacial ice during a 'snowball Earth' event," Campbell said.

He examined the issue using an analytical model that applied basic principles of physics to a simple set of atmospheric conditions believed to have existed at the time. The results were published Saturday (Oct. 8) in Geophysical Research Letters. Co-authors are Edwin Waddington and Stephen Warren, UW professors of Earth and space sciences.

Many scientists believe Earth became a giant snowball two or three times between 800 million and 550 million years ago, with each episode lasting about 10 million years. These all preceded the Cambrian explosion about 530 million years ago, when life on Earth rapidly expanded, diversified and became more complex.

But simple photosynthetic plankton turn up in the fossil record before and after the "snowball Earth" events, leading scientists to wonder how that could happen if Earth's oceans were completely encased in ice.

Campbell said it is assumed the algae survived these episodes, "unless they re-evolved each time, which creates a whole different problem for evolutionary biology."

He chose the Red Sea as an example because it is formed from a tectonic process called continental rifting, a process known to have existed at the time of the snowball Earth events, and it lies in an arid region between Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula.

Campbell noted that in a snowball Earth event, the open water in such a sea wouldn't have lasted long if it didn't have a way of being replenished if, for example, the glacial ice acted as a dam and cut off the influx of additional sea water. The open water had to exist on the order of 10 million years for the algae to survive.

"Over 10 million years, you could evaporate the deepest lake in the world," Campbell said. "If you're in a desert, you'd have to have a supply of sea water."


'/>"/>

Contact: Vince Stricherz
vinces@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. UCSB awarded $15 million by Dow to establish collaborative institute for materials research and education
2. Medical College of Wisconsin researchers show molecule inhibits metastasis
3. Researchers study agings effect on the brain
4. Professor Doug Hilton wins Milstein Award for cytokine research
5. Notre Dame researchers report progress on compound to treat neurological diseases
6. New research: Are global honey bee declines caused by diesel pollution?
7. UNH researchers: Multibeam sonar can map undersea gas seeps
8. Lithium-sulfur battery research receives $5 million from DOE
9. NIH launches research program to explore health effects from climate change
10. Chagas disease may be a threat in South Texas, says researcher
11. On the menu: Research helps future restaurant managers reach out to customers with food allergies
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/9/2017)... , Feb. 9, 2017 The biomass ... analysis of the biomass boiler market globally in terms ... of biomass boilers. The market for biomass boilers has ... type, end-user, application, and country/region. The market based on ... & forest residues, biogas & energy crops, urban residues, ...
(Date:2/8/2017)... LONDON , Feb. 7, 2017 Report ... $12.5 billion by 2021 from $8.3 billion in 2016 ... from 2016 to 2021. Report Includes - An ... of global market trends, with data from 2015 and ... through 2021. - Segmentation of the market on the ...
(Date:2/3/2017)... SAN ANTONIO , Feb. 3, 2017  Texas Biomedical ... Dr. Larry Schlesinger as the Institute,s ... of Texas Biomed effective May 31, 2017. He is currently ... and Director of the Center for Microbial Interface Biology at ... Dr. Schlesinger as the new President and CEO of Texas ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/16/2017)... , Feb. 16, 2017  Rhythm, ... rare genetic deficiencies that result in life-threatening ... a $41 million mezzanine round of financing ... OrbiMed, MPM Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Pfizer ... undisclosed public healthcare investment fund. Rhythm will ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... February 16, ... ... Albany Molecular Research Inc. has further extended its industry leading Biochemistry Services ... service offers state-of-the-art cGMP techniques and methods for the biochemical and ...
(Date:2/15/2017)... CA (PRWEB) , ... February 15, 2017 , ... ... that Park SmartScan, a powerful AFM operating software that drastically boosts productivity with single ... completely automatizes all of the functions of setting up and taking the image once ...
(Date:2/15/2017)... , Feb. 15, 2017  NASA provider SpaceX is ... to the  International Space Station  no earlier than 10:01 ... launch will begin at 8:30 a.m. on NASA Television ... Dragon spacecraft will lift off on the company,s ... Kennedy Space Center in ...
Breaking Biology Technology: