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?”

Image

Earth as it looked to Apollo 17 astronauts in the 70s. But this research is based on even older times. Groovy. (NASA)

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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