What do deep-sea sediment cores tell us about past fish populations?

Black background with fish teeth of different heights and widths

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.

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