A fossil study from Stanford University suggests the diversity of life in the world’s oceans declined time and again over the past 145 million years during periods of extreme warming.
The research, published May 6 in Current Biology, adds to evidence that the ocean temperatures projected to result if global warming is left unchecked in the coming centuries would kill off many species of marine animals and shift most survivors away from the equator.
In modern oceans, equatorial waters have generally boasted the greatest biodiversity. Scientists for decades have warned that many tropical ocean species are close to their physiological limits at current temperatures, meaning they’ll have to migrate to cooler waters or perish as the world warms. And recent research suggests climate change is already driving a global shift in the distribution of modern marine species.
But until now, little has been known about how the relationship between ocean temperature and marine biodiversity has played out through geological time.
Study co-author William Gearty is a 2018 ARCS Fellow.