Daily Archives: 2016-09-02 05:47:23 UTC

Mountains Driving Evolution

SE chart simple FINAL

Selenium abundances in the oceans over the past 550 million years. Note severe depletion of this vital trace element at three major extinction events (red triangles), suggesting this was a possible factor in these extinctions. Credit: John Long & Ross Large. From Phys.Org; Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-11-elementary-theory-mass-extinctions-life.html#jCp

Okay, it’s a bit old, but awards have just been bestowed upon the scientists involved so it’s worth noting once again. Some fascinating science news by science reporter Natalie Whiting:

‘Eureka moment’ research into ocean selenium levels asks: Did mountains control evolution of humans?

Their research has shown that almost every major growth period or extinction in the Earth’s history correlates with a change in the amount of the trace element selenium in the ocean.

When there are high levels of selenium, there is growth; when levels fall, there are extinctions. . . .

. . .

“These three mass extinction events are put down to things like global anoxia — a lack of oxygen in the oceans causing extinctions, or cooling events, like ice age events.

“But none of these events or causes in themselves are total explanations for the widespread extinctions both in the oceans and on land in some instances.

“So our explanation of the trace element depauperation (poor development) in the oceans is a very good example of something that covers all the bases and actually gives a better explanation for some of these events.”

Then there’s header that I like:

A twist on Darwin’s theory: Did man evolve from the mountains?

The research has provided strong evidence that it is the movement of tectonic plates which releases trace elements, like selenium, into the ocean.

“So we’ve added a new dimension where you might say that really it’s plate tectonics which controls evolution. Because, indirectly, plate tectonics controls the chemistry of the ocean, and the chemistry of the ocean has a big control on evolutionary pathways,” Professor Large explained.

“That’s why I often say to people basically man came from the mountains. It’s mountain building, and the erosion of all those nutrients into the ocean, that controlled man’s evolution.”

Further, a discussion on The Conversation:

Plate tectonics may have driven the evolution of life on Earth