Biosphere

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    A new theory suggests that algae may be the killer behind the world's greatest mass extinctions. Toxic algae usually exist in small concentrations, but sudden warming of water can trigger blooms that kill large numbers of organisms. The study could be important in understanding past
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    Scientists studying plankton fossils from the sea floor have determined that plankton in Earth's oceans may have survived the mass-extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous. The study provides insight into how Earth's biosphere has dealt with dramatic climate change in Earth's past.
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  • Planets With Life Linger Longer
    In one billion years, increasing radiation from the sun may make Earth uninhabitable. However, a new study shows that the life might help regulate temperatures by causing atmospheric changes. In fact, having a biosphere could increase the length of time that planets remain habitable.
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    New fossil studies indicate that the 'Snowball Earth' glaciations may not have been responsible for a massive die-off of early life on our planet. The real culprit could be bacterial blooms similar to those seen today in coastal areas and lakes that experience high run-off
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  • Life Out of the Tropics
    The diversity of life on Earth is concentrated near the equator, with a steep falloff towards the poles. A recent study finds this is because new species tend to form in the tropics and then migrate out. This historical pattern might point to a
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  • Early Oxygen
    Cores retrieved from layers of deep-sea rocks show that oxygen-producing organisms may have existed on Earth much earlier than previously thought. The chemical properties of the rocks indicate that the oceans and atmosphere of Earth were rich in oxygen 3.46 billion years ago.
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  • From the Top to the Bottom
    Scientists studying climate change in Antarctica are showing how global warming and loss of sea ice are affecting many facets of the food chain. Interestingly, at the base of the food chain, Antarctic phytoplankton is responding in two contrasting ways.
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  • Chewable Iron
    The cycling of iron in Earth's oceans plays an important role in supporting ocean ecosystems – and is ultimately vital to the global biosphere. By studying extreme, ocean floor environments, researchers have revealed unexpected clues about how biologically useful iron is released into the ocean.
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  • Cycling Nitrogen
    New research shows that the large-scale evolution of microorganisms was completed 2.5 billion years ago. This included the ability of microorganisms to process nitrogen – an evolutionary step that has had long-lasting effects on the environment and the evolution of all life on Earth.
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  • Follow the Elements
    Life needs more than liquid water to survive. Organisms also need important chemical elements. Researchers are now studying the distribution of these elements on Earth to determine how they affect the distribution and evolution of life.
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  • Latitudes and Attitudes of Microbes
    New studies show that temperature, not productivity, drives bacterial diversity. The finding is changing our understanding about the conditions that affect how organisms inhabit specific environments.
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  • Life’s Power Source
    Scientists have discovered marine organisms that perform photosynthesis in a way not previously thought possible. The finding may change the way in which we view photosynthesis' role in supporting life on Earth and maintaining the planet's global climate.
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  • Oxygen’s One-Two Punch
    At two distinct points in history, increases in oxygen and oxidation of deep oceans may have impacted the spread of complex organisms. The two events - occurring 635 and 551 million years ago - highlight the connection between the environment of Earth and the evolution
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  • Bacteria Take Earth’s Temperature
    By reconstructing proteins from ancient organisms, scientists have discovered that the Earth underwent a massive period of cooling between 3.5 billion and 500 million years ago. The finding highlights how the evolution of life on Earth is intricately linked to the planet's climate.
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  • Weird Water
    Liquid water is essential for life as we know it, and the water molecule has many characteristics that scientists have long thought were unique. Now, scientists are studying a new hypothetical 'model molecule' that behaves much like water in computer simulations.
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