Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient environment found to drive marine biodiversity

Date:
November 25, 2011
Source:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
Much of our knowledge about past life has come from the fossil record -- but how accurately does that reflect the true history and drivers of biodiversity on Earth?

Coral colony, Red Sea, Egypt. Study authors are working to understand "how perturbation of one thing -- for example, the carbon cycle -- will eventually affect the future biodiversity of the planet."
Credit: vlad61_61 / Fotolia

Much of our knowledge about past life has come from the fossil record -- but how accurately does that reflect the true history and drivers of biodiversity on Earth?

Related Articles


"It's a question that goes back a long way to the time of Darwin, who looked at the fossil record and tried to understand what it tells us about the history of life," says Shanan Peters, an assistant professor of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In fact, the fossil record can tell us a great deal, he says in a new study. In a report published on Nov. 25 in Science magazine, he and colleague Bjarte Hannisdal, of the University of Bergen in Norway, show that the evolution of marine life over the past 500 million years has been robustly and independently driven by both ocean chemistry and sea level changes.

The time period studied covered most of the Phanerozoic eon, which extends to the present and includes the evolution of most plant and animal life.

Hannisdal and Peters analyzed fossil data from the Paleobiology Database along with paleoenvironmental proxy records and data on the rock record that link to ancient global climates, tectonic movement, continental flooding, and changes in biogeochemistry, particularly with respect to oxygen, carbon, and sulfur cycles. They used a method called information transfer that allowed them to identify causal relationships -- not just general associations -- between diversity and environmental proxy records.

"We find an interesting web of connections between these different systems that combine to drive what we see in the fossil record," Peters says. "Genus diversity carries a very direct and strong signal of the sulfur isotopic signal. Similarly, the signal from sea level, how much the continents are covered by shallow seas, independently propagates into the history of marine animal diversity."

The dramatic changes in biodiversity seen in the fossil record at many different timescales -- including both proliferations and mass extinctions as marine animals diversified, evolved, and moved onto land -- likely arose through biological responses to changes in the global carbon and sulfur cycles and sea level through geologic time.

The strength of the interactions also shows that the fossil record, despite its incompleteness and the influence of sampling, is a good representation of marine biodiversity over the past half-billion years.

"These results show that the number of species in the oceans through time has been influenced by the amount and availability of carbon, oxygen and sulfur, and by sea level," says Lisa Boush, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research. "The study allows us to better understand how modern changes in the environment might affect biodiversity today and in the future."

Peters says the findings also emphasize the interconnectedness of physical, chemical, and biological processes on Earth.

"Earth systems are all connected. It's important to realize that because when we perturb one thing, we're not just affecting that one thing. There are consequences throughout the whole Earth system," he says. "The challenge is understanding how perturbation of one thing -- for example, the carbon cycle -- will eventually affect the future biodiversity of the planet."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. B. Hannisdal, S. E. Peters. Phanerozoic Earth System Evolution and Marine Biodiversity. Science, 2011; 334 (6059): 1121 DOI: 10.1126/science.1210695

Cite This Page:

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Ancient environment found to drive marine biodiversity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111124150835.htm>.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2011, November 25). Ancient environment found to drive marine biodiversity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111124150835.htm
University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Ancient environment found to drive marine biodiversity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111124150835.htm (accessed March 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, March 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Arthropod Fossil Might Be Relative Of Spiders, Scorpions

New Arthropod Fossil Might Be Relative Of Spiders, Scorpions

Newsy (Mar. 29, 2015) A 508-million-year-old arthropod that swam in the Cambrian seas is thought to share a common ancestor with spiders and scorpions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vietnam Rice Boom Piles Pressure on Farmers and the Environment

Vietnam Rice Boom Piles Pressure on Farmers and the Environment

AFP (Mar. 29, 2015) Vietnam&apos;s drive to become the world&apos;s leading rice exporter is pushing farmers in the fertile Mekong Delta to the brink, say experts, with mounting costs to the environment. Duration: 02:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lioness Has Rare Five-Cub Litter

Raw: Lioness Has Rare Five-Cub Litter

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) A lioness in Pakistan has given birth to five cubs, twice the usual size of a litter. Queen gave birth to two other cubs just nine months ago. (March 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) Using motion tracking technology, researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are trying to establish an optimum horse riding style to train junior jockeys, as well as enhance safety, health and well-being of both racehorses and jockeys. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

More Coverage


Ancient Environment Led to Earth's Current Marine Biodiversity

Nov. 28, 2011 Much of our knowledge about past life has come from the fossil record, but how accurately does that record reflect the true history and drivers of biodiversity on ... read more

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