56 million years ago, the Paleocene and Eocene temperature maximums occurred. The possible fall of the comet in the North Atlantic Ocean led to huge eruptions of underwater volcanoes, huge amounts of methane emitted, and the ocean water temperature increased. The situation led to a mass extinction of this species, but the Gulf of Mexico underwent this event more moderately. All thanks to geology.
A team of scientists from the University of Texas Geophysics Institute discovered actinomycetes while examining silt, sand and limestone around the bay. It is a group of several thousand species that live in marine plankton.
By examining them, they concluded that actinomycetes and other microbes not only survived the harsh conditions, but also thrived in this period. The question then became: How did they do that?
“The ocean has been completely uninhabitable in many places. (…) But we don’t see such an extreme impact in the Gulf of Mexico as we’ve seen elsewhere – said Marcy Porky Phillips, IG UT biostrat.
To solve the mystery, one has to look at the powers that shaped North America at the time. About 20 million years before warming, the movements of origin responsible for the uplift of the Rocky Mountains shifted rivers from what is now Texas and Louisiana to the northwest Gulf of Mexico.
It was also wetter when its temperature rose. Because of the rains, the rivers, which abound in the water, were transporting nutrient sediments to the basin, and the water cooled so much that the increase in the salinity of the oceans was not able to cover this area. The water has never been more salty than it is now.
Thanks to the discovery, it will be possible to understand the effects of global warming today.
The Gulf of Mexico is a huge natural archive of geological history, which has also been researched very carefully. said John Sneden, IG UT employee and co-author of the study
source: R.Cunningham, MP Phillips, JW Snedden, I.O. Norton, C.M. Lowery, JW Virdell, CD Barrie, A. Avery, 2022, Productivity and trends in organic carbon through the Wilcox Group in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico: evidence for aeration during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Al Aqsa, Marine and Petroleum Geology DOI: 10.1016 / j.marpetgeo.2022.105634
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