Research shines light on ancient global warming | 9/5/2018 | Staff
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The impact of global warming on shallow marine life approximately 56 million years ago is the subject of a significant, new paper by researchers at Syracuse University.

Linda Ivany, professor of Earth sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), is the lead author of an article in Science Advances. Her team's research is the first to address the effects of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)—a relatively brief period of global climate change, spanning 200,000 years—on marine invertebrates, including snails, clams and other mollusks.

Marine - Invertebrates - Animals - Backbone - Skeleton

Marine invertebrates are animals without a backbone or an internal skeleton, occupying shallow seas and reefs. Invertebrates presently account for more than 98 percent of all animal life.

"The response of ecosystems [to the PETM] has been well documented for marine plankton, terrestrial plants and land vertebrates, but, until now, almost nothing has been published on marine shelf faunas," Ivany says. "This is because the stratigraphic record, showing where marine invertebrates are preserved on the continental margins, is full of gaps because of erosion. The chances of preserving a short-duration event, such as the PETM, are small.

Ivany - Team - Effects - Climate - Change

Ivany figured that if her team could not "see" the effects of climate change in the geologic record, they could do the next best thing—look for them in sediment straddling the PETM. Turning their attention to the rich, well-preserved shell beds of the U.S. Gulf Coastal Plain, the team sought out evidence of ancient bivalves, gastropods and scaphopods.

What they found was surprising. "The long-term effects of the PETM on these shallow-water communities actually was unremarkable," says Ivany, taking into account biodiversity loss, taxonomic turnover and ecological restructuring. "Any potential selection pressure imparted by global warming must have been weak, taxon-specific, short-lived and ultimately inconsequential to overall molluscan evolutionary history."

Co-author - Warren - Allmon - Scientists - PETM

Co-author Warren Allmon says scientists have long presumed the PETM on the Coastal Plain...
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