Ordovician extinctions may have been caused by metals poisoning in oceans

Science news driblet:

Toxic metals such as iron, lead and arsenic may have helped cause mass extinctions in the world’s oceans millions of years ago, according to recent research from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Center for Scientific Research, France; and Ghent University, Belgium. These findings largely came from studying “teratological” or malformed fossil plankton assemblages corresponding to the initial stages of extinction events approximately 420 million years ago that killed off most marine species

At that time, several mass extinction events shaped the evolution of life on our planet. Some of these short-lived events were responsible for eradication of up to 85 percent of marine species, however the exact kill-mechanism responsible for these crises remains poorly understood.

In a paper just published in Nature Communications, the scientists present evidence that malformed fossil remains of 415 million- year-old marine plankton contain highly elevated concentrations of heavy metals of the kind that can cause morphological abnormalities in today’s marine life. This led the authors to conclude that metal poisoning caused the observed malformation and may have contributed to the extinction of these and many other species.

Source: USGS – “Mutant” Fossils Reveal Toxic Metals May Have Contributed to World’s Largest Extinctions

The entire paper is available here.

Please note, these extinction events were 420 million years ago (or so), not recent.

  7 comments for “Ordovician extinctions may have been caused by metals poisoning in oceans

  1. Mark Crislip
    August 31, 2015 at 11:35 PM

    To think ayurvedic medications are so ancient. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15598918

  2. Bill T.
    September 1, 2015 at 2:55 AM

    Mercury was a go to prescription for many ailments in prescientific medicine in European tradition. The scientific method isn’t perfect but there is no reliable alternative.

    Once again, preaching to the choir.

  3. Peebs
    September 1, 2015 at 8:12 AM

    Bill, it was the recommended treatment for syphilis.

    The saying used to be; A night with Venus, a lifetime on Mercury’.

  4. Mark Riegel
    September 1, 2015 at 9:21 AM

    Although banned in the U.S. in 1998, mercury-containing Mercurochrome was for decades a common household antiseptic. In the days when little kids played outdoors a lot and acquired lots of minor cuts and scrapes, many such kids were taught to treat their own wounds with soap and water, followed by Mercurochrome and a Band-Aid. The stuff stung when applied, so it took a bit of nerve to put it on a cut, and it dyed the skin red-orange–leaving a sort of “red badge of courage”–but it undoubtably prevented a lot of infections, back when such infections were still dangerous.

  5. DanielWainfleet
    September 2, 2015 at 12:39 AM

    To Mark Crislip :Did they use forced or unforced tests?LOL

  6. Anomalous
    September 2, 2015 at 2:31 AM

    What a shame. If only those poor creatures had the advantages of chelation therapy, organic superfoods, holistic Chinese medicine and wheat grass, they’d still be with us today.

  7. September 2, 2015 at 7:49 AM

    I”m going to have to flag this as since some people will totally think it’s real.

Comments are closed.