A multinational team of scientists from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, University College London (UCL), the University of Florence, and the Natural History Museum (London), has found a particular type of fossilization that has stayed almost entirely unnoticed until now.
The fossils are microscopic imprints, or “ghosts,” of single-celled plankton, named coccolithophores, that dwelled in the seas millions of years ago. Their finding revolutionizes our knowledge of how climate change influences plankton in the oceans.
Reductions in the abundance of these fossils have been reported from numerous past global warming circumstances, suggesting that this plankton was harshly affected by climate change and ocean acidification. Nonetheless, a study published today in the journal Science relates new global records of sufficient ghost fossils from three Jurassic and Cretaceous warming events, indicating that coccolithophores were more resilient to former climate change than was lately thought.
The finding of these gorgeous ghost fossils was entirely surprising,” says Dr. Sam Slater from the Swedish Museum of Natural History. “We initially found them preserved on the surfaces of fossilized pollen. It quickly became apparent that they were abundant during intervals where normal coccolithophore fossils were rare or absent – this was a total surprise!” he added.