2016-09-02

Mountains Driving Evolution

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

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: https://phys.org/news/2015-11-elementary-theory-mass-extinctions-life.html/a>

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

 

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6 Comments

  • Paxton Marshall
    2016-09-02 15:07:02 GMT+0000 - 15:07 | Permalink

    Earth’s history is marvelously complex. I’m reading a fascinating account: “A New History of Life” by Ward and Kirschvink.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-09-02 22:20:48 GMT+0000 - 22:20 | Permalink

      Hoo boy! Yet one more book to read before I die!

  • arkenaten
    2016-09-02 15:55:39 GMT+0000 - 15:55 | Permalink

    Fascinating!

  • Christine Veazey
    2016-09-02 16:17:43 GMT+0000 - 16:17 | Permalink

    Yet the mountains are one link in the movement of energy, time, and ultimately the formation of human existence and consciousness. But should I not say ultimately? That would be egotistical of me to say ultimately. The first thing I thought was Fascinating!, but Arkenaten beat me to it!

  • Paxton Marshall
    2016-09-02 16:34:34 GMT+0000 - 16:34 | Permalink

    Apparently mountain building and the subduction of plates has even altered the spin axis of earth.

  • 2016-09-03 18:47:33 GMT+0000 - 18:47 | Permalink

    “Man came from the mountains.” Then he goes on to explain that it’s not because our original ancestors are hillbillies. Rats.

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