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Science & Technology

Scientists solve animal evolution mystery

By T.K. Randall
August 17, 2017 · Comment icon 15 comments

Nutrients from the mountains were washed down in to the oceans. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Daniel Mayer
A sea algae boom has been credited with the rise of the first complex life forms in Earth's distant past.
While life is known to have existed on our planet for several billion years, up until around 650 million years ago it consisted of mostly simple life forms such as bacteria, viruses and primitive jellies.

Exactly how things went from this to the evolution of large animals within such a relatively short space of time had long remained something of a mystery, but now scientists at the Australian National University believe that they may have finally found the answer.

The key lies in a period in Earth's history during which most of the planet was covered in ice and snow.
For around 50 million years, massive glaciers pulverized mountain ranges across the globe and when the ice finally melted, this rich mountain 'dust' was washed back in to the oceans in large quantities where it very quickly produced a boom in sea algae and kick-started the evolution of larger organisms.

"Before all of this happened, there was a dramatic event 50 million years earlier called Snowball Earth," said lead researcher Associate Professor Jochen Brock.

"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."

"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."

Source: Telegraph | Comments (15)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by Will Due 6 years ago
But how does Darwin'stheory of evolution explainthe factthat micereproduce much more rapidly thanelephants, yetelephantsevolve more rapidly thanmice?
Comment icon #7 Posted by Trenix 6 years ago
So humans were causing global warming back then too? Damn those humans. They ruin everything.
Comment icon #8 Posted by qxcontinuum 6 years ago
nah... didn't happened this way...
Comment icon #9 Posted by Codenwarra 6 years ago
Not news, I regret to say.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Codenwarra 6 years ago
Easy. Biological evolution is any change in the frequency of alleles in a population of organisms. Any mutation in thepopulation of mice is swamped by the vast numbers of them. Elephants are far less common, any mutation will not be swamped so much. Crude analogy. Put a teaspoon full of salt in a bucket of water and it is easily detected. Now put it in a swimming pool and you will have much trouble in detecting it.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Will Due 6 years ago
But if thereproduction rate of mice is fasterthan the reproduction rate ofelephants, a lot faster, then mutation (evolution) of mice would logically occur much more rapidly than elephants. Yetinstead, the opposite is true. Did Darwin miss something? Is there more to evolution than just the survival of the fittest and "natural" selection? There must be something else conditioning evolution that accounts for theillogical fact thatthe rate of evolution in a species that reproduces slowly evolves quicker than a species that reproduces at a much greater rate. Mathematically and logically, som... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by Codenwarra 6 years ago
I'm sure Darwin missed a lot, and since he knew nothing about genes, probably a great deal. His theory was pioneering, it is mostly of historical interest, it was 155or so years ago, it's not as if everyone quotes Lavoisier when it comes to recent chemical facts. No doubt someone has given some better explanation, I have given you part of it, the rest I do not know. But there are certain sites on the net where you will not find that explanation, only obfuscation and lies.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Will Due 6 years ago
What explanation and lies are you referring to?
Comment icon #14 Posted by Emma_Acid 6 years ago
Can you cite this please? I only looked briefly but I can't find anything to support this.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Codenwarra 6 years ago
Sites like "Answers in Genesis" are all about obfuscation and lies for profit. "No doubt someone has given some better explanation, I have given you part of it, the rest I do not know." Thatshould be clear enough. I do not know the reason why mice evolve more slowly than elephants (if they actually do) other than the large population tends to swamp changes in alleles. There may be more to it, I do not know. Ask anevolutionarybiologist. The evolution of modern mammals has nothing to do with the conditions after the supposed snowball earth. There were no mammals then and not f... [More]

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