Simple Shells Hold the History of Earth

by Gabrielle DeMarco on May 27, 2011

Millions of years ago, tiny organisms known as foraminifera or forams roamed the seafloor in search bacteria and other bits and pieces to eat. These single-cell organisms with tiny shells have coated the ocean bottom for more than 250 million years. They might be simple in their biology and lifestyle, but these organisms have been witness to an important portion of Earth’s history. They have seen ice ages, the rise and fall of dinosaurs, the birth of humanity, as well as the changes that humans are causing to our Earth and climate today.

To tell their story, researchers like Miriam Katz break down forams to their basic chemical makeup. The elements within their shells can literally tell us the history of Earth’s climate.

Today, Katz’s most recent research of forams appears in the journal Science. Katz used forams to uncover the history of one of the most important components of our climate – the oceans. Her research is piecing together the history of our modern climate system. Check out this video for more information about this new research.

My full story on the research can be found here.

To learn more about exactly how Katz uses the elements in forams to learn about climate, take a look at this story.