All We Are Is Dust In The Wind
The mystery of how animals evolved on Earth has been uncovered by scientists.
Dust stored up on land over the billion year time frame known as Snowball Earth was released by massive global warming that resulted from volcanic CO2.
The dust fed the seas with vital minerals and that started a bloom that continues to this day to produce evolution of complex life.
Although simple life on our planet existed for billions of years, before 650 million years ago and the Cambrian Explosion it was largely just viruses, bacteria and a smattering of early multi-cellular jelly-like creatures.
Scientists at the Australian National University are reporting their discovery that freezing conditions which turned Earth in a giant snowball at around 700 million years ago also pulverized mountain ranges into mineral dust according to their paper just published in the Journal Nature.
50 million years later, a massive ‘global warming’ event hit the planet and ended the epoch of Snowball Earth. As the earth warmed the rich mountain ‘dust’ trapped in snow and ice was washed and blown as dust in the wind into the ocean where it provided vital mineral nutrients that fed the phyto-plankton of the age, the blue-green algae (since renamed cyano-bacteria).
That thriving plankton bloom that was sustained for eons set in motion the evolutionary process which would eventually lead to higher animal life and we humans.
It seems there is new truth to the old saying, “All we are is dust in the wind.”
How the Boffins of Oz made the discovery…
Looking at rocks in Central Australia dating back to 650 million years ago, the Australian academic tam which were found to be full of molecules from ancient algae. Lead researcher Professor Jochen Brock said:
“Before all of this happened, there was a dramatic event 50 million years earlier called Snowball Earth.
“The Earth was frozen over for 50 million years. 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.”
The researchers note that following the “Snowball Earth’ time there was a massive global warming which might have wiped out life on this blue planet save for the role of that vital dust. The extremely high levels of nutrients carried to the ocean in that dust resulted in massive blooms of phyto-plankton in the ocean and cooling of global temperatures to more hospitable levels. These ‘Goldilocks Oceans‘ were not too cold nor not too hot but were just the perfect conditions for the rapid spread of phyto-plankton which in turn made massive amounts of oxygen.
It was the transition from oceans being dominated by bacteria that thrive with very little oxygen to a world rich in oxygen, aka breathable air, inhabited by more complex life.
“These large and nutritious organisms at the base of the food web provided the burst of energy required for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where increasingly large and complex animals, including humans, could thrive on Earth,” Dr Brocks said.
“This is one the most profound ecological and evolutionary transitions in Earth’s history,”
Fire and Ice – Global Warming and Snowball Earth
The end of that terrible time of fire and ice on Earth took place a hundred million years before the well named Cambrian Explosion, an eruption of complex life recorded in fossils around the world that puzzled Charles Darwin and Russell Wallace the world’s great pioneers in evolutionary biology. They both always hinted at some kind of biological prehistory event that started it all.
Scattered traces of those precursor multi-celled organisms have since been recognized, but the evolutionary driver that led to their rise has been the stuff of endless academic argument.
The time was arguably the most revolutionary in Earth history, and not just because of the rapid biological changes. There were violent swings in climate, too, that experts have long suspected are intertwined.
The planet that previously had seen billions of years of sustained bacterial life in its oceans had enjoyed a rather benign climate and an even more benign bacterial life, or so some would like to refer to bacteria as being so, but that it another story. (check the story linked to the image of sea floor bacteria.)
Mother Nature’s ecological judo action followed one of the greatest environmental catastrophes the planet has ever seen. “Snowball Earth” was a period when ice extended from pole to pole, and even at the equator temperatures plunged to minus 60 degrees.
The frozen earth episode ended after 50 million years, when the massive release of volcanic CO2 in the atmosphere created a super-greenhouse that melted the ice in a second cataclysm.
Brocks tells a simple story wherein the outburst of ocean phyto-plankton 650 million years ago “kicked off an escalating arms race” in which larger creatures, fueled by their ocean-grazing, become prey to yet larger ones – until you end up with the complexity of life that we see today.
Today’s Greenhouse Crisis and the Solution
The present day Global Goldilock’s challenge, is global warming at a rate some say exceeds the great warming those hundreds of millions of years ago that bought total change to life on this blue planet, this Earth of ours. While academics, engineers, and politicians with their tunnel vision of thinking that only mankind can invent a way out of this dilemma are ignoring the very basic lesson of Mother Nature.
Dust for the oceans will restore the plankton blooms repurposing today’s deadly CO2 into new life just as it did half a billion years ago. You can read everywhere on this blog just how we can replenish and restore the oceans to health and in doing so save the world for the likes of our kind of life.