A team of Australian scientists believes to have found the answer to one of science’s most relevant questions, how life evolved on Earth. According to their research, a thawing planet and the spread of algae led to the appearance and development of life as we know it now.
More exactly, they consider that the melting of the ‘snowball Earth’ led to an explosion of algae blooms which then resulted in a diversification of plants and then animals.
Algae Fed on Nutrients Carried by the Melting Glaciers
Scientists determined that, for some billions of years, Earth was inhabited solely by simple microbes without a complex internal structure. Then, something happened which kickstarted the appearance and development of plants, animals, and eventually even humans.
According to an Australian National University or ANU team of researchers, this process might have been triggered by the melting of the ‘snowball Earth’. Studies show that our planet was frozen over for some 50 million years.
However, the new study shows that something happened some 650 million years ago. The research team called it a “revolution of ecosystems” generated by the “rise of algae”.
“Huge glaciers ground entire mountain ranges to powder that released nutrients, and when the snow melted during an extreme global heating event, rivers washed torrents of nutrients into the ocean,” states the team in an ANU press release.
The high levels of nutrients are believed to have combined with the global temperature changes. This would have then created the perfect conditions for the large-scale spreading of algae. In turn, this more complex life form is believed to have acted as a “burst of energy”. One that was required for the “evolution of more complex ecosystems”.
The study team reached these conclusions after studying ancient sedimentary rocks extracted from central Australia. After crushing them, the scientists were able to extract molecules from ancient organisms out of them.
Study findings are presented in a paper in the journal Nature.
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