Struggling Ancient Oceans

An Arizona State University professor was part of a team investigating the ancient Earth’s oceans.  The team has found a lack of oxygen may have kept animals off the planet.  KJZZ’s Tony Ganzer reports.

TG: It’s a pretty cut and dried concept, kind of:

ANBAR: “We’re looking at changes in the abundance of a biologically important element molybdenum in the oceans through time.”

TG: Ariel Anbar is an associate professor in ASU’s school of Earth and Space exploration.  Though you may not have heard of an element called molybdenum, Anbar says it has created a puzzle for he and his colleagues.

ANBAR: “The puzzle is why did organisms like us, multicellular as opposed to pond scum, evolve when we did.  Why didn’t organisms like us take over the world much sooner?”

TG: Anbar says he couldn’t just order a bucket of ancient seawater, so he looked at rock and sediment.  He found there was a 2-billion year gap from when multicellular organisms arrived, to when they reproduced in force.

ANBAR: “The chemistry of the oceans during those 2-billion years was less hospitable for life like us, but was hospitable for bacteria.”

TG: But over a couple billion years the ocean changed, and animal ancestors flourished.  The importance?  Anbar says researching ancient oceans gives an interesting perspective today.

ANBAR: “In a way we’re looking at a mirror of how the oceans are today…creating an interesting sort of yin and yang sort of thing.”

TG: Anbar’s study is published this month in Nature.

For KJZZ I’m Tony Ganzer.

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