Chemistry for Biologists: Photosynthesis
When sea levels rise as dramatically as they did in the Cretaceous, coral reefs will be buried under rising waters and the ideal position, for both photosynthesis and oxygenation, is lost, and reefs can die, like burying a tree’s roots. About 125 mya, reefs made by , which thrived on , began to displace reefs made by stony corals. They may have prevailed because they could tolerate hot and saline waters better than stony corals could. About 116 mya, an , probably caused by volcanism, which temporarily halted rudist domination. But rudists flourished until the late Cretaceous, when they went extinct, perhaps due to changing climate, although there is also evidence that the rudists . Carbon dioxide levels steadily fell from the early Cretaceous until today, temperatures fell during the Cretaceous, and hot-climate organisms gradually became extinct during the Cretaceous. Around 93 mya, , perhaps caused by underwater volcanism, which again seems to have largely been confined to marine biomes. It was much more devastating than the previous one, and rudists were hit hard, although it was a more regional event. That event seems to have , and a family of . On land, , some of which seem to have , also went extinct. There had been a decline in sauropod and ornithischian diversity before that 93 mya extinction, but it subsequently rebounded. In the oceans, biomes beyond 60 degrees latitude were barely impacted, while those closer to the equator were devastated, which suggests that oceanic cooling was related. shows rising oxygen and declining carbon dioxide in the late Cretaceous, which reflected a general cooling trend that began in the mid-Cretaceous. Among the numerous hypotheses posited, late Cretaceous climate changes have been invoked for slowly driving dinosaurs to extinction, in the “they went out with a whimper, not a bang” scenario. However, it seems that dinosaurs did go out with a bang. A big one. Ammonoids seem to have been brought to the brink with nearly marine mass extinctions during their tenure on Earth, and it was no different with that late-Cretaceous extinction. Ammonoids recovered once again, and their lived in the late Cretaceous, but the end-Cretaceous extinction marked their final appearance as they went the way of and other iconic animals.
Glossary of Terms: P - Physical Geography
As oxygenic photosynthesis spread through the oceans, everything that could be oxidized by oxygen was, during what is called the (“GOE”), although there may have been multiple dramatic events. The event began as long as three bya and is . The ancient carbon cycle included volcanoes spewing a number of gases into the atmosphere, including hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen, but carbon dioxide was particularly important. When the continents began forming, carbon dioxide was removed from the atmosphere via water capturing it, , the carbon became combined into calcium carbonate, and plate tectonics subducted the calcium carbonate in the ocean sediments into the crust, which was again released as carbon dioxide in volcanoes.
It can be helpful at this juncture to grasp the cumulative impact of , inventing , inventing , inventing that made possible, and inventing . Pound-for-pound, the complex organisms that began to dominate Earth’s ecosphere during the Cambrian Period consumed energy about 100,000 times as fast as the Sun produced it. Life on Earth is an incredibly energy-intensive phenomenon, powered by sunlight. In the end, only so much sunlight reaches Earth, and it has always been life’s primary limiting variable. Photosynthesis became more efficient, aerobic respiration was an order-of-magnitude leap in energy efficiency, the oxygenation of the atmosphere and oceans allowed animals to colonize land and ocean sediments and even fly, and life’s colonization of land allowed for a . Life could exploit new niches and even help create them, but the key innovations and pioneering were achieved long ago. If humanity attains the , new niches will arise, even of the , but all other creatures living on Earth have constraints, primarily energy constraints, which produce very real limits. Life on Earth has largely been a for several hundred million years, but the Cambrian Explosion was one of those halcyonic times when animal life had its greatest expansion, not built on the bones of a mass extinction so much as blazing new trails.