Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Link between marine algae and whale diversity over last 30 million years, study finds

Date:
February 22, 2010
Source:
George Mason University
Summary:
New research shows a strong link between the diversity of organisms at the bottom of the food chain and the diversity of mammals at the top. Throughout the last 30 million years, changes in the diversity of whale species living at any given time period correlates with the evolution and diversification of diatoms, tiny, abundant algae that live in the ocean.

Humpback Whale.
Credit: iStockphoto/Josh Friedman

A new paper by researchers at George Mason University and the University of Otago in New Zealand shows a strong link between the diversity of organisms at the bottom of the food chain and the diversity of mammals at the top.

Related Articles


Mark D. Uhen, a geologist at Mason, says that throughout the last 30 million years, changes in the diversity of whale species living at any given time period correlates with the evolution and diversification of diatoms, tiny, abundant algae that live in the ocean. In the paper, published in the latest issue of Science, Uhen and co-author Felix G. Mark of Otago show that the more kinds of diatoms living in a time period, the more kinds of whales there are.

Looking at thousands of published accounts of whale fossil records, the researchers assembled the records in a database to analyze and pinpoint the various fossils. The fossil records show a direct link between the productivity of the ocean and the variety of whale fossils. Uhen says they also found a correlation between global changes and fossil variety.

"This study shows that if we look at the bottom of the food chain, it might tell you something about the top," says Uhen. "Diatoms are key primary producers in the modern ocean, and thus help to form the base of the marine food chain. The fossil record clearly shows that diatoms and whales rose and fell in diversity together during the last 30 million years."

Uhen says this is the first time that such a correlation has been shown. Though scientists in the past have tried to answer the question of how the modern diversity of whale and dolphins arise, this question has been difficult to answer. The fossil record might not truly reflect evolutionary history, says Uhen. "Is it possible that the diversity of fossils we find through geological time might really just reflect the amount of preserved sedimentary rock paleontologists can search -- the more rock there is, the more fossils we find? This comprehensive study has shown that the diversity of these fossils is in fact not driven by the sedimentary rock record."

The researchers hope these findings will encourage other specialists to look at other animals with a similar narrow ecology to see if this link translates.

Uhen is a term assistant professor in Mason's Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences and is an expert in marine mammal fossils. In the future, he hopes to conduct research on how the body size of whales changes over time, and how whales became the largest living organisms in the world.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by George Mason University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Felix G. Marx, Mark D. Uhen. Climate, Critters, and Cetaceans: Cenozoic Drivers of the Evolution of Modern Whales. Science, 2010; 327 (5968): 993 DOI: 10.1126/science.1185581

Cite This Page:

George Mason University. "Link between marine algae and whale diversity over last 30 million years, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100219115357.htm>.
George Mason University. (2010, February 22). Link between marine algae and whale diversity over last 30 million years, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100219115357.htm
George Mason University. "Link between marine algae and whale diversity over last 30 million years, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100219115357.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fossil Treasures at Risk in Morocco Desert Town

Fossil Treasures at Risk in Morocco Desert Town

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) Hundreds of archeological jewels in and around the town of 30,000 people prompt geologists and archeologists to call the Erfoud area "the largest open air fossil museum in the world". Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) A 45,000-year-old thighbone is showing when humans and neanderthals may have first interbred and revealing details about our origins. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) You've probably seen some weird-looking dinosaurs, but have you ever seen one this weird? It's worth a look. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins