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.