Could Fish Fossils Help Us Better Predict Climate Change ?

Posted: 11/01/2011 in all marine news

Alex Knapp –

By measuring an element present in fish fossils, researchers at the University of Missouri may have found a key to better understanding how climate change works.

The researchers measured neodymium, an element that indicates where sea water originally came from. The ratio of two isotopes of neodymium varies in different areas, leaving a sort of signature on the water.

Fish teeth and bones pick up the same signature from the water where the fish died and fell to the sea floor.

Because of that, the ratio of the neodymium isotopes can act as a natural tracking system for water masses, according to Ken MacLeod, a professor of geological science at the university.

This tracking system shows that, in a prehistoric time called the Late Cretaceous Epoch, the deep oceans circulated differently than many scientists had previously thought.

That’s important because the Late Cretaceous Epoch was a greenhouse climate – one with high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide – and researchers also found that the timing of a change in the ocean-circulation patterns closely matched the timing of climate change.

Understanding how the oceans circulated during prehistoric climate change could help us better predict how climate change might affect us in the future.

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