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Shellfish Shed Light On Pangea's Ancient Climate

Oct 02, 2015 04:31 PM EDT
Shellfish Sample
Shellfish deposits, one of which is pictured here, provide clues as to what Pangea's ancient climate was like. Researchers examined stable isotopes (A) and trace elements (B) to determine if Pangea experienced strong monsoons.
(Photo : A. Roark et al. and GSA Bulletin)

Using 300 million-year-old shellfish deposits, researchers from the Geological Society of America (GSA) have determined what the climate of Pangea was like.

GSA scientists Andy Roark and his colleagues examined fossil brachiopod shells discovered in shallow waters of present day West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a news release. Their study sheds light on the ancient weather of what was once the supercontinent Pangea.

Roark and his colleagues carefully examined the chemistry of the shellfish. For each shell, they too micro-samples along its direction of growth, so that they could interpret stable carbon and oxygen isotopes and trace elements. This experiment allowed them to test if Pangea underwent strong monsoons, or massive seasonal changes in wind direction, during times of high sea level, or interglacial periods

From this, they were able to record the seasonal variations the organisms experienced throughout their lifetimes. Roark concluded that the region actually experienced minimal seasonal changes in temperature and rainfall. This means that if there were any monsoons, they were weak. 

Their findings shed light on the paleoclimates of ancient Pangea and the relationship between monsoons and sea level. This could help researchers predict future climate changes. 

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