Plankton evolution and the Paleogene/Neogene transition

Theme: Past Life & Environments
Main Supervisor:

Paul Bown

Earth Sciences, UCLpaulbown

Project Description:

The modern oceanic phytoplankton comprises three algal groups – the diatoms, coccolithophores and dinoflagellates – with diatoms currently dominating both biodiversity and productivity.

Fossil biodiversity estimates suggest that this dominance may be a relatively recent phenomenon and that the late Eocene to early Miocene time interval (~34-20 million years ago) saw significant decline in the diversity of calcifying phytoplankton (coccolithophores), coincident with a rise in the siliceous diatoms.This time period also saw major climatic re-organization with high latitude cooling, ice sheet growth on Antarctica and glacial/interglacial cycles.

The project will document the structure and timing of coccolithophore diversity through this interval and test whether climatic shifts played a significant role in plankton evolution, population variability and population composition. The research will focus on new, well-preserved sample material recovered during IODP Expedition 342 in 2012.

Policy Impact of Research:

The research will shed light on the environmental factors controlling plankton diversity in the oceans. Furthermore, the exceptional quality and temporal resolution of the new sample material will provide improved biostratigraphic age control for this relatively poorly known time interval.

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