Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New test adds to scientists' understanding of Earth's history, resources

Date:
December 5, 2012
Source:
University of Florida
Summary:
A new study provides the first direct chronological test of sequence stratigraphy, a powerful tool for exploring Earth’s natural resources.

Shells and fragments found in sediments in the Po Plain, Italy, show the abundance and diversity of the area’s fossils. In a study published online Nov. 29, 2012, in Geology, researchers dated mollusks extracted from the sediment to verify key predictions of the sequence stratigraphy model, a powerful tool for interpreting Earth’s history and exploring for petroleum.
Credit: Daniele Scarponi, University of Bologna

A new study co-authored by a University of Florida researcher provides the first direct chronological test of sequence stratigraphy, a powerful tool for exploring Earth's natural resources.

The model allows geologists to better understand how sedimentary rocks are related to one another in time and space and predict what types of rocks are located in different areas. The information may help scientists more reliably interpret various aspects of Earth's history such as long-term climate changes or extinction events, and also benefit companies searching for the best locations to drill for oil.

The study recently published online in Geology uses extensive numerical dating of fossil shells to verify key predictions of the sequence stratigraphy model. Although used successfully for more than 30 years as a theoretical framework for interpreting and exploring rock bodies, the model had never been proven quantitatively by direct numerical dating.

"Paleontologists and geologists are well aware of the fact that you should not take the fossil record at face value because you will then see changes through time that may not be meaningful," said study co-author Michal Kowalewski, a curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. "However, by using dating to quantify how the resolution changes through time, we can improve quality control on our data and develop better strategies for reconstructing the history of life more accurately."

In the study, researchers used racemization, a technique in which amino acid ratios are obtained to estimate the age of fossils from the most recent geological record. Relative age estimates were calibrated using radiocarbon to date about 250 mollusk shells extracted from cores drilled in the Po Plain in northern Italy. The technique, developed over the last 30 years, has made dating of large numbers of shells affordable and efficient, Kowalewski said.

Kowalewski is principal investigator on the National Science Foundation-funded project, a four-year study involving a team of scientists from the University of Bologna and Northern Arizona University.

"We were thrilled to learn that sedimentary rocks assemble through time exactly as predicted," said Kowalewski, who recently relocated from Virginia Tech and is the Jon L. and Beverly A. Thompson Chair of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Florida Museum. "The results are not only a direct validation of the sequence stratigraphic model, but also provide us with direct numerical estimates of changes in the resolution of the fossil record as a function of relative changes in sea level."

As the model predicted for the geological setting of the Po Plain, the sediments accumulated at an increasingly slower pace during initial phases of sea level rise, culminating with horizons that formed so slowly that shells from multiple millennia were mixed within the same sediment layers. Following the sea level rise, sediment was deposited at an increasingly faster pace.

"We are pretty confident that the primary driver of sea level changes in this time frame was climate, but that's not always the case in the geological record," Kowalewski said. 'We can now provide a more informed constraint on timing of the most recent sea level rise in the northern Adriatic."

Because the Po Plain contains young sediments dating to about the last 10,000 years, part of the cycle researchers tested includes changes occurring today, said Carlton Brett, a geology professor at the University of Cincinnati. As sea level rises quickly, sediment accumulates in bays and river mouths, leaving little sediment offshore, Brett said.

"I think what they're doing is groundbreaking in the sense that they're testing a model that is one of the most important models in sedimentary geology that has ever come down the pipe," Brett said. "As one who uses that model a lot and makes those assumptions about why we are getting shell beds offshore, the fact that they have put numbers on the tests gives us very good confidence that we're on the right track."

The team plans to continue working in the Po Plain, a well-understood system that records the most recent millennia of the region's geological history. The project can help researchers better understand human-induced changes because the Po Plain sediments document the fossil record of ecosystems that directly predate what many geologists refer to as the Anthropocene Epoch, the new geologic era of human modification of the natural world.

Study co-authors include Daniele Scarponi and Alessandro Amorosi of the University of Bologna, and Darell Kaufman of Northern Arizona University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. The original article was written by Danielle Torrent. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. D. Scarponi, D. Kaufman, A. Amorosi, M. Kowalewski. Sequence stratigraphy and the resolution of the fossil record. Geology, 2012; DOI: 10.1130/G33849.1

Cite This Page:

University of Florida. "New test adds to scientists' understanding of Earth's history, resources." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121205112826.htm>.
University of Florida. (2012, December 5). New test adds to scientists' understanding of Earth's history, resources. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121205112826.htm
University of Florida. "New test adds to scientists' understanding of Earth's history, resources." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121205112826.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) British researchers were able to use Mount Everest's low altitudes to study insulin resistance. They hope to find ways to treat diabetes. 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:
from the past week

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