Newly found fossil in the Arctic can help determine the future of planet

Prehistoic Goose in ArcticA new fossil was discovered in the Canadian arctic that can help us determine the future of our planet. The fossil was found by a team of geologists from the University of Rochester. The discovered fossil is about a 90 million years old. This is one of the oldest avian records that have been found in the Northern Hemisphere. The entire study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The bird has been named Tingmiatornis arctica and its bones show that it was something between a seagull and a cormorant. From the bones it was understood that is was a large sea bird with a wingspan of a meter across. The fossil helped the scientists to understand the ecosystem that existed 90 million years ago.

The bird belongs to a period when there was extreme climatic warmth without seasonal ice. The mean minimum annual temperatures where around 14 °C. “The extreme warmth allowed species expansion and establishment of an ecosystem more easily able to support large birds, especially in fresh water bodies such as those present in the Turonian High Arctic”: said Richard K Bono in his publication.

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The Turonian polar warmth

Bird fossils from Turonian (ca. 90 Ma) sediments of Axel Heiberg Island (High Canadian Arctic) are among the earliest North American records. Also, further studies indicate that during those periods the bottom water temperature was between 18 °C and 25 °C whereas surface water was 35 °C. This also implies a high concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere during this period.

This prehistoric global warming could be caused by biological factors. Large grazing sauropods, such as brontosaurus and diplodocus, were the cows of the Jurassic and Cretaceous. Their emissions could have had similar effects to that of modern industries. Cattle releases large amounts of methane during grazing, which is also a greenhouse gas.

By studying historic climate records, scientists can determine how species and ecosystems are affected by climate change and how different species distributed across the earth is affected.

 

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