Special journal issue looks for new clues about old life

phys.org | 10/22/2018 | Staff
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Hundreds of millions of years before there was a chicken or an egg to debate, the first complex animals were evolving in parallel with Earth's rising oxygen levels.

But what came first—animals or oxygen?

Question - Theme - Issue - Topics - Life

That question is the central theme of a special issue of Emerging Topics in Life Sciences published Sept. 28 by Portland Press. Titled "Early Earth and the Rise of Complex Life," the issue was edited by UC Riverside's Timothy Lyons, a distinguished professor of biogeochemistry, along with UCR professor Mary Droser and postdoctoral researcher Kimberly Lau, and Susannah Porter, a professor at UC Santa Barbara. Several of the 18 articles included in the collection were authored or co-authored by UCR researchers.

While geological and fossil records suggest the formation of complex life and oxygenation of the planet progressed hand-in-hand, the details about the possible cause-and-effect relationship are still murky and debated. Did rising oxygen levels in the oceans and atmosphere drive the formation of complex life, were they unrelated, or did the eventual emergence and proliferation of complex life instead cause a rise in oxygen?

Questions - Time - Collection - Look - Relationship

"While those questions remain largely unanswered at this time, this curated collection offers an up-to-date look at the relationship between early organisms and their environments through the lens of a diverse group of scientists using a variety of cutting-edge methods," Lyons said.

Oxygen began to accumulate in the oceans and atmosphere 2.3-2.4 billion years ago during the Great Oxidation Event. By 1.8 million years ago, oxygen levels had fallen to intermediate levels, where they remained stable for another billion years—dubbed 'the boring billion' by scientists. Around 800 million years ago, the levels likely increased again,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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