July 2 (UPI) – Small marine organisms, the oldest in the world, had a huge effect on the oceans and the atmosphere, inspiring significant global warming.
When scientists at the University of Exeter analyzed ancient sediment layers, they discovered a drop in ocean oxygen levels between 540 and 520 million years ago.
During this time, small marine organisms began to decompose the organic material, a process that consumes oxygen and triggers the release of CO2.
Like worms in a garden, small creatures on the sea floor disturb, mix and recycle dead organic material, a process known as bioturbation, "Exeter professor Tim Lenton said in a press release." Because the effect From the burrow of the animals is so big, one would expect to see great changes in the environment when the entire seafloor changes from an unaltered state to a bioturbed state. "
Scientists measured a decrease in oxygen, but the first animals of The Earth barely disturbed the upper layers of the seafloor sediment.
"This meant that the animals that lived on the sea floor at that time were not very active and did not go deep into the bottom of the sea," said Simon Poulton. , a professor at the University of Leeds. "At first glance, these two observations do not seem to add up."
However, after a more detailed analysis, the scientists found that nter that these small communities of marine organisms could have a great impact. Even today, smaller animals – such as phytoplankton, for example – can have a great impact on the environment.
"The first bioturbators had a massive impact," said Poulton.
When the researchers constructed and ran a new model to simulate the chemical impacts of these early marine bioturbants, they realized that the creatures explain significant changes in the composition of the Earth's atmosphere.
"The evolution of these small animals decreased oxygen in the ocean and atmosphere, but also increased atmospheric pressure, carbon dioxide levels to such an extent that it caused a global warming event," said Leeds Benjamin researcher Mills "We knew that the warming occurred at this time in the history of the Earth, but we did not realize that it could be driven by animals."
The researchers shared their advanced analysis in a new document, published this week in the journal Nature Communications.
According to the study's authors, the results are a reminder that the inhabitants of Earth can alter the planet's climate for the worse. Initial global warming made life more difficult for the oldest creatures on the planet and probably explains several mass extinctions during the first 100 million years of animal evolution.