Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dawn of carnivores explains animal boom in distant past

Date:
July 31, 2013
Source:
University of California, San Diego
Summary:
Scientists have linked increasing oxygen levels and the rise and evolution of carnivores (meat eaters) as the force behind a broad explosion of animal species and body structures millions of years ago.

Nereids, carnivorous polychaete marine worms, utilize strong jaws to bite off chunks of soft-bodied animals. Authors of a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that carnivorous polychaetes from low-oxygen regions decrease in abundance with decreasing oxygen levels.
Credit: Greg Rouse

A science team that includes researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has linked increasing oxygen levels and the rise and evolution of carnivores (meat eaters) as the force behind a broad explosion of animal species and body structures millions of years ago.

Led by Erik Sperling of Harvard University, the scientists analyzed how low oxygen zones in modern oceans limit the abundance and types of carnivores to help lead them to the cause of the "Cambrian radiation," a historic proliferation of animals 500-540 million years ago that resulted in the animal diversity seen today. The study is published in the July 29 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Although the cause of the influx of oxygen remains a matter a scientific controversy, Sperling called the Cambrian radiation that followed "the most significant evolutionary event in the history of animals."

"During the Cambrian period essentially every major animal body plan -- from arthropods to mollusks to chordates, the phylum to which humans belong -- appeared in the fossil record," said Sperling, who is scheduled to join Scripps as a postdoctoral researcher through National Science Foundation support. The authors linked this proliferation of life to the evolution of carnivorous feeding modes, which require higher oxygen concentrations. Once oxygen increased, animals started consuming other animals, stimulating the Cambrian radiation through an escalatory predator-prey "arms race."

Lisa Levin, a professor of biological oceanography at Scripps, along with graduate student researcher Christina Frieder, contributed to the study by providing expertise on the fauna of the ocean's low-oxygen zones, areas that have been increasing in recent decades due to a variety of factors. While the Cambrian radiation exploded with new species and diversification, Levin believes this study suggests the reverse may ensue as oxygen declines and oxygen minimum zones expand.

"This paper uses modern oxygen gradients and their effects on marine worms to understand past evolutionary events" said Levin, director of Scripps's Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation and a 1982 Scripps graduate. "However, the study of oxygen's role in the past is also going to help us understand the effects of and manage for changes in ocean oxygen in the future."

As part of the research study, Sperling spent time at Scripps working with Levin and Frieder. He also participated in the San Diego Coastal Expedition (bit.ly/sdcoastex), a cruise led by Frieder aboard the Scripps/U.S. Navy research vessel Melville and funded by the UC Ship Funds program, which offers students unique access to at-sea training and research.

In addition to Sperling, Frieder, and Levin, coauthors of the paper include Akkur Raman of Andhra University (India) and Peter Girguis and Andrew Knoll of Harvard. Funding for the study was provided by Ministry of Earth Sciences, New Delhi, Agouron Geobiology, the National Science Foundation, and NASA.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California, San Diego. The original article was written by Mario Aguilera. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. A. Sperling, C. A. Frieder, A. V. Raman, P. R. Girguis, L. A. Levin, A. H. Knoll. Oxygen, ecology, and the Cambrian radiation of animals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1312778110

Cite This Page:

University of California, San Diego. "Dawn of carnivores explains animal boom in distant past." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130731093310.htm>.
University of California, San Diego. (2013, July 31). Dawn of carnivores explains animal boom in distant past. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130731093310.htm
University of California, San Diego. "Dawn of carnivores explains animal boom in distant past." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130731093310.htm (accessed July 26, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

Howdini (July 24, 2014) Smoothies are a great way to get in lots of healthy ingredients, plus they taste great! Howdini has a trick for making the perfect single-size smoothie that will save you time on cleanup too! All you need is a blender and a mason jar. Video provided by Howdini
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. 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