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Our Oceans: Past, Present, Future

TaylorDue to global warming, is it “back to the future” for our oxygen-stressed seas? The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and Stony Brook Southampton will present an interesting and timely evolutionary talk as part of its popular Public Lecture Series.

“Life Without Oxygen in Venezuela’s Cariaco Basin: A Modern Analog of Ancient Seas” with Marine Sciences Professor Gordon T. Taylor will take place on Friday, October 2, at 7:30 pm in Duke Lecture Hall. A reception will follow. For more information, call 632-5046. The event is free and open to the public.

Life first evolved in oceans devoid of free oxygen. Anoxia was the norm for microbes, the only life forms for the first 3.5 billion years of Earth’s history. Cyanobacteria, photosynthetic single-celled bacteria, changed all that about 2.5 billion years ago, and algae later helped raise oxygen to current levels during the next 1.7 billion years. Only then did complex multi-cellular life forms arise.

The ocean has fluctuated in and out of anoxic states throughout geologic history. Today anoxic and oxygen-stressed marine environments appear to be expanding as a consequence of global climate change.

As part of a long-term observation program, Taylor’s team has been exploring the unique biological and chemical features of the permanently anoxic Cariaco Basin off the Caribbean coast of Venezuela. While the Basin is inhospitable to almost all animals, Taylor’s results reveal an astonishing diversity of microbes surviving in very innovative ways. Taylor’s talk will explore how this system may be a window into our ocean’s dark anoxic past as well as one into its not-too-distant future.

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