Global warming events 420 million years ago, comparable to those currently beginning to affect our planet, may have caused catastrophic environmental changes in an ancient ocean, threatening the life that existed in it.
Jointly supervised by the University of Leicester Department of Geology and the British Geological Survey (BGS), a postgraduate researcher based at Leicester and the BGS is to investigate exquisitely preserved fossil zooplankton known as graptolites, which may hold some clues to these events.
These mysterious creatures were entombed 420 million years ago in layers of mud at the bottom of this former deep sea, which was subsequently transformed into the mountains of central Wales.
PhD student Andrea Snelling, working with fellow Leicester scientists Jan Zalasiewicz and Alex Page, will use the graptolites as biological tracers to study the behaviour of that ancient ocean, in which life on the sea floor was periodically killed off. Global warming is one of several possible causes that will be examined.
Andrea Snelling commented:
"These oceans, and the animals that lived in them, were very unlike the ones we know today. Yet understanding these ancient phenomena may help us understand the changes that are taking place in our oceans today."
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