Posts Tagged 'paleo'

Global record of “ghost” nannofossils reveals plankton resilience to high CO2 and warming


Fossil imprints from oceans of the past

Ghosts of the past

The marine geological records of some past global warming events contain relatively few nannoplankton fossils, the lack which some interpret as being evidence of the impact of ocean acidification and/or related environmental factors on biocalcification. Slater et al. present a global record of imprint, or “ghost,” nannofossils throughout several of those intervals during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (see the Perspective by Henderiks). This finding implies that a literal interpretation of the fossil record can be misleading, and demonstrates that nannoplankton were more resilient to past warming events than traditional fossil evidence would suggest. —HJS


Predictions of how marine calcifying organisms will respond to climate change rely heavily on the fossil record of nannoplankton. Declines in calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and nannofossil abundance through several past global warming events have been interpreted as biocalcification crises caused by ocean acidification and related factors. We present a global record of imprint—or “ghost”—nannofossils that contradicts this view, revealing exquisitely preserved nannoplankton throughout an inferred Jurassic biocalcification crisis. Imprints from two further Cretaceous warming events confirm that the fossil records of these intervals have been strongly distorted by CaCO3 dissolution. Although the rapidity of present-day climate change exceeds the temporal resolution of most fossil records, complicating direct comparison with past warming events, our findings demonstrate that nannoplankton were more resilient to past events than traditional fossil evidence suggests.

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Ichnodiversity in the eastern Canadian Arctic in the context of polar microbioerosion patterns

Studies of marine microbioerosion in polar environments are scarce. They include our recent investigations of bioerosion traces preserved in sessile balanid skeletons from the Arctic Svalbard archipelago and the Antarctic Ross Sea. Here, we present results from a third study site, Frobisher Bay, in the eastern Canadian Arctic, together with a synthesis of our current knowledge of polar bioerosion in both hemispheres. Barnacles from 62 to 94 m water depth in Frobisher Bay were prepared using the cast-embedding technique to enable visualization of microboring traces by scanning electron microscopy. In total, six ichnotaxa of traces produced by organotrophic bioeroders were found. All recorded ichnotaxa were also present in Mosselbukta, Svalbard, and most in the Ross Sea. Frobisher Bay contrasts with Mosselbukta in that it is a siliciclastic-dominated environment and shows a lower ichnodiversity, which may be accounted for by the limited bathymetrical range and a high turbidity and sedimentation rate. We evaluate potential key ichnotaxa for the cold-temperate and polar regions, of which the most suitable are Flagrichnus baiulus and Saccomorpha guttulata, and propose adapted index ichnocoenoses for the interpretation of palaeobathymetry accordingly. Together, the three studies allow us to make provisional considerations about the biogeographical distribution of polar microbioerosion traces reflecting the ecophysiological limits of their makers.

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End-Triassic Extinction in a carbonate platform from western tethys: a comparison between extinction trends and geochemical variations

The Triassic/Jurassic boundary section cropping out at Mt Sparagio in north-western Sicily (Italy) consists of a thick and continuous peritidal succession typical of a Tethyan carbonate platform. The combined chemostratigraphic and biostratigraphic study of this section allowed us to parallel the environmental variations inferred by the isotopic records and the extinction trends recorded by the benthic organisms. In the studied section, the isotope data of C, O, and S are indicative of serious environmental perturbations related to the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) activity, as recorded worldwide. Two negative excursions in the C-curve (Initial-CIE and Main-CIE) confirm the acidification processes that affected the benthic community. Moreover, the oxygen isotopes curve indicates a strong warming-trend that corresponds to the reduction in biodiversity and size of the megalodontoids in the upper part of the Rhaetian beds, probably due to the deterioration of the photosymbiotic relationships of these pelecypods. We here present some novel isotope data (Zn, Pb, Sr) from the Mt Sparagio section that offer additional clues on a tight control of CAMP volcanism on the End-Triassic Extinction.

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Is the relative thickness of ammonoid septa influenced by ocean acidification, phylogenetic relationships and palaeogeographic position?

The impact of increasing atmospheric CO2 and the resulting decreasing pH of seawater are in the focus of current environmental research. These factors cause problems for marine calcifiers such as reduced calcification rates and the dissolution of calcareous skeletons. While the impact on recent organisms is well established, little is known about long-term evolutionary consequences. Here, we assessed whether ammonoids reacted to environmental change by changing septal thickness. We measured the septal thickness of ammonoid phragmocones through ontogeny in order to test the hypothesis that atmospheric pCO2, seawater pH and other factors affected aragonite biomineralisation in ammonoids. Particularly, we studied septal thickness of ammonoids before and after the ocean acidification event in the latest Triassic until the Early Cretaceous. Early Jurassic ammonoid lineages had thinner septa relative to diameter than their Late Triassic relatives, which we tentatively interpret as consequence of a positive selection for reduced shell material as an evolutionary response to this ocean acidification event. This response was preserved within several lineages among the Early Jurassic descendants of these ammonoids. By contrast, we did not find a significant correlation between septal thickness and long-term atmospheric pCO2 or seawater pH, but we discovered a correlation with palaeolatitude.

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Schizosphaerella size and abundance variations across the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event in the Sogno Core (Lombardy Basin, Southern Alps)


  • Schizospharella spp. size and abundance variations during the Jenkyns event.
  • Abundance drop caused by the failure of S. punctulata > 7 μm.
  • Size decrease due to the relative increase in abundance of small specimens.
  • Drop in abundance and size consequence of ocean acidification and global warming.
  • Presence of diagenetic crust diagnostic to distinguish S. punctulata from S. astraea


Abundance and size variations of nannofossil Schizosphaerella punctulata were quantified in the uppermost Pliensbachian–Lower Toarcian succession recovered with the Sogno Core (Lombardy Basin, Northern Italy). High-resolution nannofossil biostratigraphy and C-isotopic chemostratigraphy identified the Jenkyns Event within the Toarcian oceanic anoxic event (T-OAE) interval. Absolute abundances and morphometric changes of “small S. punctulata” (< 7 μm), S. punctulata (7–10 μm; 10–14 μm; > 14 μm) and “encrusted S. punctulata” (specimens with a fringing crust) show large fluctuations across the negative δ13C Jenkyns Event. The Schizosphaerella crisis is further characterized by a decrease in average valve size in the early–middle Jenkyns Event. The abundance fall was caused by the failure of S. punctulata specimens >7 μm and “encrusted S. punctulata” that along with the increased relative abundance of small specimens, produced the reduction of average dimensions also documented in the Lusitanian and Paris Basins, although with a diachronous inception. The average valve size from the Lombardy Basin is ~2 μm smaller than in these other basins. Hyperthermal conditions associated with excess CO2 and ocean acidification possibly forced the drastic reduction of S. punctulata abundance/size. In the pelagic succession of the Sogno Core there is a strong positive correlation between the S. punctulata (> 7 μm) absolute abundance/size and the CaCO3 content, with a negligible contribution by small specimens (< 7 μm). Encrusted specimens testify selective neomorphic processes: the diagenetic crust seems diagnostic to separate S. punctulata from S. astraea.

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Unraveling ecological signals from a global warming event of the past

This article has related content: Isotopic filtering reveals high sensitivity of planktic calcifiers to Paleocene–Eocene thermal maximum warming and acidification Brittany N. Hupp, D. Clay Kelly, John W. Williams

As we face the increasing threat of global warming and its associated effects, paleontologists and paleoclimatologists alike look to the geological record to investigate how rapid, natural global warming events of the past have impacted the Earth system. One of the most important archives for investigating climate change in the geological past is the marine sediment record (1). In the open oceans, sediment particles, organic matter, and the shells of marine microorganisms, are constantly raining down on the seafloor and accumulating as marine sediments (1). In the relative quiescence of the deep sea, these sediments can build up relatively undisturbed for millions of years (1). Analysis of the chemical signals in these sediments that are influenced by temperature has allowed for the reconstruction of changing global climates throughout the last 70 million years (2).

The first half of the Cenozoic (66 million years to 34 million years ago) was characterized by “hothouse” and “warmhouse” climates, when global temperatures were between 5 °C and 10 °C warmer than the present day (2), and atmospheric CO2 was estimated to be between 500 and 3,000 parts per million (3). Against this backdrop of an already warm world, between 56 million and 46 million years ago, there were a series of rapid global warming events called “hyperthermals” (2). These hyperthermal events are geologically brief, typically <200,000 y in duration, and associated with sharp negative carbon isotope excursions (2). The Paleocene–Eocene thermal maximum (PETM), which occurred ∼56 million years ago, was the largest of these events (2). It was first discovered in the early 1990s as a pronounced shift in the climate records of a deep-sea sediment core from the Southern Ocean (4). Since that time, the PETM has become the most studied Cenozoic hyperthermal, and, due to its potential analogy to anthropogenic climate change, it remains a key interval of Earth history for climatological research.

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Surface ocean warming and acidification driven by rapid carbon release precedes Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is recognized by a major negative carbon isotope (δ13C) excursion (CIE) signifying an injection of isotopically light carbon into exogenic reservoirs, the mass, source, and tempo of which continue to be debated. Evidence of a transient precursor carbon release(s) has been identified in a few localities, although it remains equivocal whether there is a global signal. Here, we present foraminiferal δ13C records from a marine continental margin section, which reveal a 1.0 to 1.5‰ negative pre-onset excursion (POE), and concomitant rise in sea surface temperature of at least 2°C and a decline in ocean pH. The recovery of both δ13C and pH before the CIE onset and apparent absence of a POE in deep-sea records suggests a rapid (< ocean mixing time scales) carbon release, followed by recovery driven by deep-sea mixing. Carbon released during the POE is therefore likely more similar to ongoing anthropogenic emissions in mass and rate than the main CIE.

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Isotopic filtering reveals high sensitivity of planktic calcifiers to Paleocene–Eocene thermal maximum warming and acidification


Human-induced carbon emissions are causing global temperatures to rise and oceans to acidify. To understand how these rapid perturbations affect marine calcifying communities, we investigate a similar event in Earth’s geologic past, the Paleocene–Eocene thermal maximum (PETM). We introduce a method, isotopic filtering, to mitigate the time-averaging effects of sediment mixing on deep-sea microfossil records. Contrary to previous studies, we find that tropical planktic foraminifers in the central Pacific ocean were adversely affected by PETM conditions, as evidenced by a decrease in local diversity, extratropical migration, and impaired calcification. While these species survived the PETM through migration to cooler waters, it is unclear whether marine calcifiers can withstand the rapid changes our oceans are experiencing today.


Ocean warming and acidification driven by anthropogenic carbon emissions pose an existential threat to marine calcifying communities. A similar perturbation to global carbon cycling and ocean chemistry occurred ∼56 Ma during the Paleocene–Eocene thermal maximum (PETM), but microfossil records of the marine biotic response are distorted by sediment mixing. Here, we use the carbon isotope excursion marking the PETM to distinguish planktic foraminifer shells calcified during the PETM from those calcified prior to the event and then isotopically filter anachronous specimens from the PETM microfossil assemblages. We find that nearly one-half of foraminifer shells in a deep-sea PETM record from the central Pacific (Ocean Drilling Program Site 865) are reworked contaminants. Contrary to previous interpretations, corrected assemblages reveal a transient but significant decrease in tropical planktic foraminifer diversity at this open-ocean site during the PETM. The decrease in local diversity was caused by extirpation of shallow- and deep-dwelling taxa as they underwent extratropical migrations in response to heat stress, with one prominent lineage showing signs of impaired calcification possibly due to ocean acidification. An absence of subbotinids in the corrected assemblages suggests that ocean deoxygenation may have rendered thermocline depths uninhabitable for some deeper-dwelling taxa. Latitudinal range shifts provided a rapid-response survival mechanism for tropical planktic foraminifers during the PETM, but the rapidity of ocean warming and acidification projected for the coming centuries will likely strain the adaptability of these resilient calcifiers.

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Environmental crises at the Permian–Triassic mass extinction

The link between the Permian–Triassic mass extinction (252 million years ago) and the emplacement of the Siberian Traps Large Igneous Province (STLIP) was first proposed in the 1990s. However, the complex cascade of volcanically driven environmental and biological events that led to the largest known extinction remains challenging to reconstruct. In this Review, we critically evaluate the geological evidence and discuss the current hypotheses surrounding the kill mechanisms of the Permian–Triassic mass extinction. The initial extrusive and pyroclastic phase of STLIP volcanism was coeval with a widespread crisis of terrestrial biota and increased stress on marine animal species at high northern latitudes. The terrestrial ecological disturbance probably started 60–370 thousand years before that in the ocean, indicating different response times of terrestrial and marine ecosystems to the Siberian Traps eruptions, and was related to increased seasonality, ozone depletion and acid rain, the effects of which could have lasted more than 1 million years. The mainly intrusive STLIP phase that followed is linked with the final collapse of terrestrial ecosystems and the rapid (around 60 thousand years) extinction of 81–94% of marine species, potentially related to a combination of global warming, anoxia and ocean acidification. Nevertheless, the ultimate reasons for the exceptional severity of the Permian–Triassic mass extinction remain debated. Improved geochronology (especially of terrestrial records and STLIP products), tighter ecological constraints and higher-resolution Earth system modelling are needed to resolve the causal relations between volcanism, environmental perturbations and the patterns of ecosystem collapse.

Key points

  • The Permian–Triassic mass extinction (252 million years ago) substantially reduced global biodiversity, with the extinction of 81–94% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate families.
  • Sedimentary, palaeontological and geochemical records of the mass extinction indicate that a cascade of environmental changes caused the extinction.
  • The environmental changes can be linked (and attributed to) the effects of volcanic emissions (for example, CO2, SO2, halogens and metals) during the eruption of the Siberian Traps Large Igneous Province.
  • The inferred volcanically driven environmental perturbations include: global warming, oceanic anoxia, oceanic acidification, ozone reduction, acid rain and metal poisoning.
  • The crisis on land probably started about 60–370 thousand years before that in the ocean, indicating the different response times of terrestrial and marine ecosystems to volcanism, but the reasons for the earlier terrestrial crisis remain poorly understood.
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Machine learning identifies ecological selectivity patterns across the end-Permian mass extinction

The end-Permian mass extinction occurred alongside a large swath of environmental changes that are often invoked as extinction mechanisms, even when a direct link is lacking. One way to elucidate the cause(s) of a mass extinction is to investigate extinction selectivity, as it can reveal critical information on organismic traits as key determinants of extinction and survival. Here we show that machine learning algorithms, specifically gradient boosted decision trees, can be used to identify determinants of extinction as well as to predict extinction risk. To understand which factors led to the end-Permian mass extinction during an extreme global warming event, we quantified the ecological selectivity of marine extinctions in the well-studied South China region. We find that extinction selectivity varies between different groups of organisms and that a synergy of multiple environmental stressors best explains the overall end-Permian extinction selectivity pattern. Extinction risk was greater for genera that had a low species richness, narrow bathymetric ranges limited to deep-water habitats, a stationary mode of life, a siliceous skeleton, or, less critically, calcitic skeletons. These selective losses directly link the extinctions to the environmental effects of rapid injections of carbon dioxide into the ocean–atmosphere system, specifically the combined effects of expanded oxygen minimum zones, rapid warming, and potentially ocean acidification.

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Methane hydrate dissociation across the Oligocene–Miocene boundary

Methane hydrate dissociation has long been considered as a mechanism for global carbon cycle perturbations, climate change and even mass extinctions in Earth’s history. However, direct evidence of hydrate destabilization and methane release coinciding with such events is scarce. Here we report the presence of diagnostic lipid biomarkers with depleted carbon isotopes from three sites in the Southern Ocean that are directly linked to methane release and subsequent oxidation across the Oligocene–Miocene boundary (23 million years ago). The biomarker evidence indicates that the hydrate destabilization was initiated during the peak of the Oligocene–Miocene boundary glaciation and sea-level low stand, consistent with our model results suggesting the decrease in hydrostatic pressure eroded the base of global methane hydrate stability zones. Aerobic oxidation of methane in seawater consumes oxygen and acidifies the ocean, acting as a negative feedback that perhaps facilitated the rapid and mysterious termination of glaciation in the early Miocene.

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Bioindicators of severe ocean acidification are absent from the end-Permian mass extinction

The role of ocean acidification in the end-Permian mass extinction is highly controversial with conflicting hypotheses relating to its timing and extent. Observations and experiments on living molluscs demonstrate that those inhabiting acidic settings exhibit characteristic morphological deformities and disordered shell ultrastructures. These deformities should be recognisable in the fossil record, and provide a robust palaeo-proxy for severe ocean acidification. Here, we use fossils of originally aragonitic invertebrates to test whether ocean acidification occurred during the Permian–Triassic transition. Our results show that we can reject a hypothesised worldwide basal Triassic ocean acidification event owing to the absence of deformities and repair marks on bivalves and gastropods from the Triassic Hindeodus parvus Conodont Zone. We could not, however, utilise this proxy to test the role of a hypothesised acidification event just prior to and/or during the mass extinction event. If ocean acidification did develop during the mass extinction event, then it most likely only occurred in the latest Permian, and was not severe enough to impact calcification.

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Pliocene decoupling of equatorial Pacific temperature and pH gradients

Ocean dynamics in the equatorial Pacific drive tropical climate patterns that affect marine and terrestrial ecosystems worldwide. How this region will respond to global warming has profound implications for global climate, economic stability and ecosystem health. As a result, numerous studies have investigated equatorial Pacific dynamics during the Pliocene (5.3–2.6 million years ago) and late Miocene (around 6 million years ago) as an analogue for the future behaviour of the region under global warming1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12. Palaeoceanographic records from this time present an apparent paradox with proxy evidence of a reduced east–west sea surface temperature gradient along the equatorial Pacific1,3,7,8indicative of reduced wind-driven upwelling—conflicting with evidence of enhanced biological productivity in the east Pacific13,14,15 that typically results from stronger upwelling. Here we reconcile these observations by providing new evidence for a radically different-from-modern circulation regime in the early Pliocene/late Miocene16 that results in older, more acidic and more nutrient-rich water reaching the equatorial Pacific. These results provide a mechanism for enhanced productivity in the early Pliocene/late Miocene east Pacific even in the presence of weaker wind-driven upwelling. Our findings shed new light on equatorial Pacific dynamics and help to constrain the potential changes they will undergo in the near future, given that the Earth is expected to reach Pliocene-like levels of warming in the next century.

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Lithium elemental and isotope systematics of modern and cultured brachiopods: implications for seawater evolution

Lithium has proven a powerful tracer of weathering processes and chemical seawater evolution. Skeletal components of marine calcifying organisms, and in particular brachiopods, present promising archives of Li signatures. However, Li incorporation mechanisms and potential influence from biological processes or environmental conditions require a careful assessment. In order to constrain Li systematics in brachiopod shells, we present Li concentrations and isotope compositions for 11 calcitic brachiopod species collected from six different geographic regions, paralleled with data from culturing experiments where brachiopods were grown under varying environmental conditions and seawater chemistry (pH–pCO2, temperature, Mg/Ca ratio). The recent brachiopod specimens collected across different temperate and polar environments showed broadly consistent δ7Li values ranging from 25.2 to 28.1‰ (with mean δ7Li of 26.9 ± 1.5‰), irrespective of taxonomic rank, indicating that incorporation of Li isotopes into brachiopod shells is not strongly affected by vital effects related to differences among species. This results in Δ7Licalcite–seawater values (per mil difference in 7Li/6Li between brachiopod calcite shell and seawater) from −2.9‰ to −5.8‰ (with mean Δ7Licalcite–seawater value of −3.6‰), which is larger than the Δ7Licalcite–seawater values calculated based on data from planktonic foraminifera (~0‰ to ~−4‰). This range of values is further supported by results from brachiopods cultured experimentally. Under controlled culturing conditions simulating the natural marine environment, the Δ7Licalcite–seawater for Magellania venosa was −2.5‰ and not affected by an increase in temperature from 10 to 16 °C. In contrast, a decrease in Mg/Ca (or Li/Ca) ratio of seawater by addition of CaCl2 as well as elevated pCO2, and hence low-pH conditions, resulted in an increased Δ7Licalcite-seawater up to −4.6‰. Collectively, our results indicate that brachiopods represent valuable archives and provide an envelope for robust Li-based reconstruction of seawater evolution over the Phanerozoic.

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Ocean acidification in the Northern Indian Ocean: a review


  • Multiple oceanographic processes functioning together and increased anthropogenic CO2 make Northern Indian Ocean more susceptible to ocean acidification than other major oceans of the world.
  • ACD and CCD have been defined chemically and biologically, in the NIO.
  • Palaeo-records suggest shoaling of ACD and CCD during warmer (interglacial) periods leading to dissolution of pteropod and foraminiferal shells.
  • The ACD lies within the OMZ and thus the strength of the latter directly affects the ACD.
  • While OMZ reduces the pH causing shoaling of ACD, denitrification in the Arabian Sea leads to increase in pH. Bay of Bengal is not conducive to denitrification.
  • Impacts of ocean acidification on ecosystems are completely lacking.
  • Need to collate abundant data collected since International Indian Ocean Expedition-1, laboratory and in-situ culture experiments for biological responses, and water column studies.


Characterised by one of the largest fresh water influxes in the world, the Northern Indian Ocean (NIO) is also bathymetrically, hydrodynamically and climatologically fragmented into smaller basins, making it a complex ocean basin. The monsoon system is unique to the NIO, bringing in several processes like ocean warming, dissolved oxygen depletion, evaporation, freshwater runoff induced by precipitation as well as glacial melting, nutrients derived from land runoff as well as coastal upwelling, biological productivity, oxic-degradation of organic matter and formation of oxygen minimum zones, all functional together at any given time. The seasonality and magnitude of all these processes control the pH in the NIO, as against other global oceans wherein only one or a couple of these processes are in play. The thermohaline circulation is another process that continuously affects the water chemistry in the NIO and has varied in strength over glacial-interglacial cycles. Its interaction with the NIO has the potential of affecting water masses in other ocean basins as well. While there exists limited work in the NIO directly addressing the issue of ocean acidification, substantial research has been done to understand the different hydrological and climatological processes, which influence the acidity in the basin. The present review summarises such studies which offer significant clues to the processes leading to- and impacts of- ocean acidification in the NIO. However, ocean acidification studies are in their nascent stage in the NIO. Understanding the influence of thermohaline ventilation in the Bay of Bengal, interbasinal hydrological teleconnections, impacts of ocean acidification on different trophic levels of the food chain, estimation of anthropogenic CO2 flux, estimation of pre-industrial pH and dissolution horizons by collating past chemical metrics collected, study of submarine volcanic regions as mimics of climate change and qualitative / quantitative ecosystem responses / adaptations are all promising prospects for further study in the Northern Indian Ocean.

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Morphological response accompanying size reduction of belemnites during an Early Jurassic hyperthermal event modulated by life history

One of the most common responses of marine ectotherms to rapid warming is a reduction in body size, but the underlying reasons are unclear. Body size reductions have been documented alongside rapid warming events in the fossil record, such as across the Pliensbachian-Toarcian boundary (PToB) event (~ 183 Mya). As individuals grow, parallel changes in morphology can indicate details of their ecological response to environmental crises, such as changes in resource acquisition, which may anticipate future climate impacts. Here we show that the morphological growth of a marine predator belemnite species (extinct coleoid cephalopods) changed significantly over the PToB warming event. Increasing robustness at different ontogenetic stages likely results from indirect consequences of warming, like resource scarcity or hypercalcification, pointing toward varying ecological tolerances among species. The results of this study stress the importance of taking life history into account as well as phylogeny when studying impacts of environmental stressors on marine organisms.

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A pronounced spike in ocean productivity triggered by the Chicxulub impact


There is increasing evidence linking the mass-extinction event at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary to an asteroid impact near Chicxulub, Mexico. Here we use model simulations to explore the combined effect of sulfate aerosols, carbon dioxide and dust from the impact on the oceans and the marine biosphere in the immediate aftermath of the impact. We find a strong temperature decrease, a brief algal bloom caused by nutrients from both the deep ocean and the projectile, and moderate surface ocean acidification. Comparing the modeled longer-term post-impact warming and changes in carbon isotopes with empirical evidence points to a substantial release of carbon from the terrestrial biosphere. Overall, our results shed light on the decades to centuries after the Chicxulub impact which are difficult to resolve with proxy data.

Plain Language Summary

The sudden disappearance of the dinosaurs and many other species during the end-Cretaceous mass extinction 66 million years ago marks one of the most profound events in the history of life on Earth. The impact of a large asteroid near Chicxulub, Mexico, is increasingly recognised as the trigger of this extinction, causing global darkness and a pronounced cooling. However, the links between the impact and the changes in the biosphere are not fully understood. Here, we investigate how life in the ocean reacts to the perturbations in the decades and centuries after the impact. We find a short-lived algal bloom caused by the upwelling of nutrients from the deep ocean and nutrient input from the impactor.

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Patterns of element incorporation in calcium carbonate biominerals recapitulate phylogeny for a diverse range of marine calcifiers

Elemental ratios in biogenic marine calcium carbonates are widely used in geobiology, environmental science, and paleoenvironmental reconstructions. It is generally accepted that the elemental abundance of biogenic marine carbonates reflects a combination of the abundance of that ion in seawater, the physical properties of seawater, the mineralogy of the biomineral, and the pathways and mechanisms of biomineralization. Here we report measurements of a suite of nine elemental ratios (Li/Ca, B/Ca, Na/Ca, Mg/Ca, Zn/Ca, Sr/Ca, Cd/Ca, Ba/Ca, and U/Ca) in 18 species of benthic marine invertebrates spanning a range of biogenic carbonate polymorph mineralogies (low-Mg calcite, high-Mg calcite, aragonite, mixed mineralogy) and of phyla (including Mollusca, Echinodermata, Arthropoda, Annelida, Cnidaria, Chlorophyta, and Rhodophyta) cultured at a single temperature (25°C) and a range of pCO2 treatments (ca. 409, 606, 903, and 2856 ppm). This dataset was used to explore various controls over elemental partitioning in biogenic marine carbonates, including species-level and biomineralization-pathway-level controls, the influence of internal pH regulation compared to external pH changes, and biocalcification responses to changes in seawater carbonate chemistry. The dataset also enables exploration of broad scale phylogenetic patterns of elemental partitioning across calcifying species, exhibiting high phylogenetic signals estimated from both uni- and multivariate analyses of the elemental ratio data (univariate: λ = 0–0.889; multivariate: λ = 0.895–0.99). Comparing partial R2 values returned from non-phylogenetic and phylogenetic regression analyses echo the importance of and show that phylogeny explains the elemental ratio data 1.4–59 times better than mineralogy in five out of nine of the elements analyzed. Therefore, the strong associations between biomineral elemental chemistry and species relatedness suggests mechanistic controls over element incorporation rooted in the evolution of biomineralization mechanisms.

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Enhanced E. huxleyi carbonate counterpump as a positive feedback to increase deglacial pCO2sw in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific


  • Increased coccolith calcification degree at high pCO2 and low surface water pH.
  • Enhanced glacial E. huxleyi biological pump as a buffer to the excess of pCO2atm.
  • Enhanced deglacial E. huxleyi counterpump as a major source of high pCO2sw.


The modern Eastern Equatorial Pacific (EEP) Ocean is a high nutrient low chlorophyll (HNLC) upwelling region and a large oceanic source of carbon to the atmosphere. During the last deglaciation, the EEP played a major role in the outgassing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the upwelling surface water system of CO2-enriched deep-water masses originating from the Southern Ocean. The EEP upwelling system is also fertilizing the surface waters and enhancing the biological pump. Here we present data on the mass and calcification dynamics of the coccolithophore species Emiliania huxleyi spanning the last 30 ky at Site ODP 1238 (1°52.310′S, 82°46.934′W; 2203 m) in the EEP. Our results show an increased coccolith calcification degree during times of high pCO2 and low surface water pH conditions; this unexpected result is tentatively explained as related to changes in homeostasis equilibrium at the site of calcification and between the cell and the seawater environment. We estimated the E. huxleyi particulate inorganic to organic carbon ratio (PIC:POC) in order to detect changes in the carbonate counter-pump to carbon pump activity, which can act as either a positive or negative feedback to atmospheric CO2 modulating air-sea gas exchange. Our study indicates an enhanced coccolithophore biological pump during the last glacial that could have buffered, at least partially, the excess of pCO2atm via absorption into the ocean. Finally, during the last deglaciation, the enhanced carbonate counter pump was a major source of high pCO2sw in the EEP surface ocean.

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Testing for ocean acidification during the early Toarcian using δ44/40Ca and δ88/86Sr

During the early Toarcian, volcanic gases released by the Karoo-Ferrar large igneous province are widely believed to have caused severe environmental disturbances, including ocean acidification. Here we show records of δ44/40Ca and δ88/86Sr through the early Toarcian, as recorded in three groups of biogenic calcite: Megateuthididae belemnites, Passaloteuthididae belemnites, and brachiopods of the species Soaresirhynchia bouchardi. We evaluate the data to eliminate the influence on isotopic composition of varying temperature, calcification rate, and salinity, through the section that may mask the environmental signals.

Neither δ44/40Ca and δ88/86Sr show negative isotope excursions across the suggested acidification interval as would be expected had acidification occurred. A profile of δ11B, re-interpreted from a published study, shows no variation through the interval. Taken together, these data provide little support for ocean acidification at this time.

Values of δ88/86Sr are independent of temperature or Sr/Ca in our belemnites. For brachiopods, too few data are available to determine whether such a dependence exists. Values of δ44/40Ca show a weak temperature control of magnitude +0.020± 0.004‰/°C (2 s.d.). In belemnites, δ44/40Ca also correlates positively with Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca.

Continue reading ‘Testing for ocean acidification during the early Toarcian using δ44/40Ca and δ88/86Sr’

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