Featured image: A coral colony from Maldives, Indian Ocean. Picture credit: Андрей Корман from Pixabay (Public domain)
Paper: Potential of reef building corals to study the past Indian monsoon rainfall variability
Author: Supriyo Chakraborty
Paleooceanographers have often used reef-building corals to study oceanic processes like the El Niño and Southern Oscillation, ocean circulation patterns, air–sea gas exchange, and the Indian Ocean dipole (a.k.a Indian Niño), among others. Yet how exactly do corals provide clues about the physical and chemical conditions of their environments? The answer lies in their skeletons.
Continue reading “Could corals help study the variability of past Indian monsoons?”
Featured Image: Ichthyoliths (microfossil fish teeth) from deep-sea sediment cores displaying the variety of tooth morphology. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Sibert, lead author of the paper.
Paper: No state change in pelagic fish production and biodiversity during the Eocene–Oligocene transition
Authors: Elizabeth C. Sibert, Michelle E. Zill, Ella T Frigyik, Richard D. Norris
The seafloor at the bottom of the ocean records what is happening in the water above. Sediments capture silica from diatoms and phytoplankton, carbon from zooplankton poop and detrital marine snow, and teeth after dead fish sink. This last piece of evidence is particularly important: fossilized fish teeth or icthyoliths can help estimate past fish abundance and can show shifts in fish species or biodiversity in the ocean over time.
Continue reading “What do deep-sea sediment cores tell us about past fish populations?”
Paper: A 23 m.y. record of low atmospheric CO2
Featured image: Modern vascular land plants (Raphanus sativus), growing in a carbon dioxide experiment (Figure 1A from Jahren et al., 2008)
Authors: Ying Cui, Brian A. Schubert, A. Hope Jahren
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, trapping warmth within the Earth’s atmosphere. Sixty years of measurements on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa summit have shown rising amounts of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. In addition, the carbon dioxide levels in our modern atmosphere are significantly higher than those we have seen on Earth over the last 800,000 years, according to measurements on bubbles of ancient air trapped in Antarctic ice. When combined with measurements of global temperatures, these direct measurements are irrefutable evidence for rapid modern climate change. However, understanding our current position relative to Earth’s climate farther back in time is trickier, since scientists have to estimate atmospheric composition indirectly (through a “proxy”). A new study tackles this problem with a new method of estimating past carbon dioxide, showing that modern carbon dioxide levels have been unprecedented since at least 7 million years ago.
Continue reading “New 23 million year record of atmospheric carbon dioxide highlights current human influence on the atmosphere”
Minerals, those naturally occurring, inorganic materials with well-defined chemical compositions and crystal structures have long influenced human culture and fascinated (geo)scientists. Some of the earliest descriptions of minerals and their uses date back to Ancient Egypt, recorded on papyri, as well as on stelae (blocks of stone or wood), and ostraca (clay tablets or pottery shards). Minerals and their uses have been intertwined with human history for thousands of years from the gemstone bracelets of the Egyptians and their belief that color was a strong reflection of personality (color symbolism, e.g., the use of gold for crowns on pharaohs and its association with the sun), to the Greeks and their wide use of gemstones in necklaces, and bracelets.
Continue reading “Got an apatite for minerals? Of quartz you do!”
Featured image: The earliest examples of life on Earth are microbial buildups known as stromatolites, like these 1.8 Ga old examples from Great Slave Lake, Canada. What changed on our planet for organisms to evolve from microbes to macroscopic lifeforms?
Paper: Ediacaran reorganization of the marine phosphorus cycle
Authors: Laakso, T.A., Sperling, E.A., Johnston, D.T., and Knoll, A.H.
This is a guest post by Akshay Mehra and Danielle Santiago Ramos. Contact us to submit a guest post of your own!
The history of life on Earth—as recorded in the rock record—stretches back to more than 3.5 billion years ago (Ga). The earliest fossilized remains of living organisms appear in the form of stromatolites, which are laminated constructions built in part (or completely) by microbes. While there have been some tantalizing hints that living organisms were mobile by 2.1 Ga (Albani et al., 2019) and multicellular by 1.6 Ga (Bengston et al. 2017), what is definitively known is that by ~750 million years ago (Ma), complex microscopic lifeforms were widespread on our planet. As time progressed, life became macroscopic. Then, during the Cambrian Era (beginning 539 Ma), most modern phyla (i.e. a grouping of organisms based on body plans) appeared in a flurry of diversification so drastic that it has been nicknamed “the Cambrian explosion.” Scientists are still trying to understand what combination of physical and biological processes may have driven the Cambrian explosion.
Continue reading “Did a change in phosphorus cycling lead to the diversification of macroscopic life?”
Featured image: Jeremy Bishop on Pexels
Paper: Re-evaluating mid-Holocene reef “turn-off” on the inshore Southern Great Barrier Reef
Authors: Leonard, N.D., Lepore, M.L., Zhao, J.X., Rodriguez-Ramirez, A., Butler, I.R., Clark, T.R., Roff, G., McCook, L., Nguyen, A.D., Feng, Y. and Pandolfi, J.M.
A new study has reconstructed the complex growth history of coral communities in the Keppel Islands, southern Great Barrier Reef, revealing that the area might provide a safe-haven for coral under climate change.
Continue reading “Warmer climate could mean corals thrive in the southern Great Barrier Reef”
Featured image: An artist’s concept of NASA’s InSight lander on Mars with a cutaway of the surface below. Credit: IPGP/Nicolas Sarter.
Paper: Constraints on the shallow elastic and anelastic structure of Mars from InSight seismic data
Authors: Philippe Lognonné et al.,
Scientists are able to ‘see’ the internal structure of the Earth based on seismic waves recorded during Earthquakes. Earthquakes send seismic waves out in all directions with two main types: (1) surface waves are the major culprits of Earthquake damage as they remain on the surface; (2) faster body waves can travel down within Earth’s interior. The body waves are the fastest seismic waves, consisting of the first (primary; P-wave) and second (secondary, S-wave) waves to arrive at a location away from the epicentre of an Earthquake.
Continue reading “Marsquakes give scientists an InSight to Mars”