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201606fsu-paleoJune 22, 2016 - A major climate event millions of years ago that caused substantial change to the ocean’s ecological systems may hold clues as to how the Earth will respond to future climate change, a Florida State University researcher said.

In a new study published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Assistant Professor of Geology Jeremy Owens explains that parts of the ocean became inhospitable for some organisms as the Earth’s climate warmed 94 million years ago. As the Earth warmed, several natural elements — what we think of as vitamins — depleted, causing some organisms to die off or greatly decrease in numbers.

The elements that faded away were vanadium and molybdenum, important trace metals that serve as nutrients for ocean life. Molybdenum in particular is used by bacteria to help promote nitrogen fixation, which is essential for all forms of life.

“These trace metals were drawn down to levels below where primary producing organisms, the base of the ocean food chain, can survive,” Owens said. “This change inhibited biology.”

FSU News Release