Climate catastrophe 233 million years ago enables the rise of the dinosaurs
233 million years ago, a series of massive volcanic eruptions in present-day Canada provoked a climate change. These events led to the creation of new ecosystems, such as coral reefs, and favored the rapid spread of dinosaurs. This is the conclusion drawn by an international, interdisciplinary team of scientists in a new study comprising researchers from Jacobs University Bremen and the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT).
The volcanic eruptions took place during the geological Carnian age. These events injected huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This led to global warming and widespread humid conditions, causing an enormous loss of biodiversity and mass extinctions. As a result of this natural disaster, known as the ‘Carnian Pluvial Episode’, more than 33 percent of the marine genera disappeared, according to the study recently published in the renowned journal „Science Advances“.
Dinosaurs already existed before, but they rapidly diversified during the Carnian Pluvial Episode. “This age is particularly interesting because it marks the birth of many animal and plant groups that dominate our current ecosystems,“ said Dr. Sönke Hohn, who is involved in the study on behalf of the ZMT.
On land and in humid environments, turtles, crocodiles, lizards, insects and even the first mammals appeared. Conifers and other groups of species spread out. In the sea, modern coral reefs and plankton groups evolved and the chemistry of the water changed dramatically. These „new“ organisms were the forerunners of those that populate today’s ecosystems. Therefore, authors of the paper describe this time as the „dawn of the modern world“.
For their study, the team examined a large number of chemical elements and fossils. Through detailed synthesis work, the researchers were able to create a more comprehensive picture of the Carnian events and to show time-related cause-and-effect relationships.
„The Carnian Pluvial Episode was long overlooked. We are now able to analyze the processes in much greater detail, and over time scales of less than one million years”, says Dr. Agostino Merico, Professor of Ecological Modeling at Jacobs University and head of the Systems Ecology group at the ZMT. As part of the study, the expert in ocean biochemistry examined the effects of massive carbon dioxide emissions on the chemistry of seawater. The research project was financed by the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (Institute for Advanced Study) in Delmenhorst.
About Jacobs University Bremen:
Studying in an international community. Obtaining a qualification to work on responsible tasks in a digitized and globalized society. Learning, researching and teaching across academic disciplines and countries. Strengthening people and markets with innovative solutions and advanced training programs. This is what Jacobs University Bremen stands for. Established as a private, English-medium campus university in Germany in 2001, it is continuously achieving top results in national and international university rankings. Its more than 1,500 students come from more than 120 countries with around 80% having relocated to Germany for their studies. Jacobs University’s research projects are funded by the German Research Foundation or the EU Research and Innovation program as well as by globally leading companies.
For more information: www.jacobs-university.de
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About the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT):
In research and education, the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) in Bremen is dedicated to the better understanding of tropical coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, sea grasses, coral reefs, estuaries and upwelling systems. As an interdisciplinary Leibniz institute, the ZMT conducts research on the structure and functioning of tropical coastal ecosystems and their reaction to natural changes and human interactions. It aims to provide a scientific basis for the protection and sustainable use of these ecosystems. ZMT works in close cooperation with partners in the tropics, where it supports capacity building and the development of infrastructures in the area of sustainable coastal zone management. ZMT is a member of the Leibniz Association. More information at www.leibniz-zmt.de
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Prof. Dr. Agostino Merico | Professor für Ökologische Modellierung an der Jacobs University und Leiter der Arbeitsgruppe Systemökologie am Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)
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