Vertebrate Palaeontology
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The BBC BluePlanet

Newly discovered ocean plankton named after BBC Blue Planet.

Although measuring only thousandths of a millimetre, these plankton play a pivotal role in marine ecosystems as a crucial source of food for many ocean dwelling organisms. They are also incredibly valuable for studying the impact of climate change on ocean life now and across the previous 220 million years.
The plankton – called coccolithophores – are single cells surrounded by a calcite shell that varies drastically in shape across different species, acting as armour against predators.
“Although microscopic, the plankton are so abundant that they are visible from space as swirling blooms in the surface oceans, and form our most iconic rocks with their calcite forms making up the bulk of the white chalk cliffs and downs of southern England,” explained study co-author Professor Paul Bown.
It is the ability to produce this calcite shell that is being disrupted through ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is a symptom of climate change whereby rising atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, increasing its acidity.
By studying fossilised plankton shells or ‘coccoliths’ in samples from drilling down deep into the ocean bed, scientists can map the impact of climate change and other global events over a very long period of time and use this to inform what might happen to in the future.

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Published: Apr 17, 2018 6:26:00 PM

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Vertebrate Palaeontology

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Vertebrate palaeontology is the study of the fossil record of organisms with a backbone (Chordates). Vertebrate groups range from the first marine fish through the earliest air-breathing amphibians through to fully terrestrial reptiles and mammals.

A detailed examination of ancient vertebrate fossils can give us an insight to patterns of evolution, ecology and ontogeny as well as providing information through isotopic analysis of recent changes in climate.