Life Might Exist thanks to Snowball Earth Period
The scientists say that the idea that the earth might have been coated in ice for millions of years is not as absurd as some believe. In fact, they believe that this is the best way of explaining how some complex animals appeared on Earth.
The idea is called the Snowball Earth Hypothesis, and it suggests that our entire planet was covered in deep layers of ice, for numerous millions of years. The researchers stated that this might have happened between 750 million and 635 million years ago, in the period of time hit by numerous glaciations. Some of the earlier animals began diversifying about 650 million years ago, and if the theories are correct, that would have been in the middle of Snowball Earth. It is believed that the atmosphere saw an increase of oxygen during that period. Based on the researches conducted on the marine sediment, the researchers have reached the conclusion that deep freeze could have encouraged the evolution of the animals, by filling the oceans and seas with nutrients.
The investigators at the University of California at Riverside and their colleagues gathered more than 700 samples of iron-rich marine sediment from around the world in order to find out the proper amount of nutrients needed to develop the growth in the organisms. Noah Planavsky, a biogeochemist at California-Riverside recollects that the task of gathering all the sediments was very difficult and time consuming. They had trouble getting to the required areas, as their cars often got stuck in the mud. There were times when they got lost because the maps lead them to the wrong places. There were times when they spent hours searching and searching, but they could not find anything useful. However, they were proud of their work, and of the fact that they managed to accomplish the task. They discovered that the phosphate concentrations were very constant over the past 542 million years. However, prior to that period they discovered that the levels of the phosphate concentrations were spiked a lot, and it is believed that it all happened during the Snowball period. It has been discovered that the levels were 10 times than usual during that period.
It seems that it was not the first time when the Snowball period occurred, as the original chilly period might have occurred two billion years ago. It is believed that the ancient relatives of the plants and of the animals which exist today might have been survivors of that dreadful period of time. The scientists have found oil trapped in water droplets, and it is believed that the oil contained tiny microorganisms. The researchers believe that those organisms might have shaped the world as we know it, in the sense that if they would have not survived, then we might have not existed nowadays. They believe that the earth might have looked a lot different than it looks nowadays in the case that the Snowball period would have managed to destroy everything. The news that the organisms were found surprised everybody, as such a thing was considered to be impossible.
The Snowball period which took place 750 million years ago might have shaped the evolution of many species of animals and plants which exist nowadays. The researchers have discovered the fact that the glaciers have accelerated many things, including the weathering of the continents, or the dumping of large amounts of phosphorus in the water, which could have helped with the simulation of the productivity of photosynthetic algae. The algae helped the increase of the oxygen in the atmosphere amongst other things. The oxygen might have been used by some of the early animals in order to breathe, and it is believed that it might have also helped the development of the ozone layer. As you might know, the ozone layer is extremely important, as it protects all the beings from the harmful radiation emitted by the sun.
researcher Timothy Lyons, another biogeochemist at California-Riverside stated that the might have found the element which caused the production of the oxygen, which eventually led to the creation of the proper living conditions on our planet. Without it, the species would have not evolved as they did, and things would have looked a lot different nowadays. It is fascinating when you thing about it, that these minor details made such huge differences. The main element which could be responsible for the creation and development of life, here on earth, is the ice which covered the entire planet.
The researchers have stated that they want to analyze the way in which the ice has led to the dumping of phosphorus into the oceans and the seas of the world. They have found all the pieces of the puzzle: the ice, the phosphorus, the oxygen, and so on. Now, what they need to do is put all of these pieces of puzzle into one piece in order to be able to fully understand the process. They know that the oxygen from the ocean was able to sustain the life there, but only in a certain degree, as many of the beings which lived there were very small in size. When the Snowball period came, the oxygen was kept below the waters, and when the nutrients were dumped into the water, they caused the growth of the life forms. At least that is one of the theories. It seems that we will have to wait more time in order to find out the truth about this great period from our history.11