Metal-induced malformations in early Palaeozoic plankton are harbingers of mass extinction

Journal article
(Original article)

Publication Details

Author(s): Vandenbroucke TR, Emsbo P, Munnecke A, Nuns N, Duponchel L, Lepot K, Quijada M, Paris F, Servais T, Kießling W
Journal: Nature Communications
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Publication year: 2015
Volume: 6
ISSN: 2041-1723
Language: English


Glacial episodes have been linked to Ordovician-Silurian extinction events, but cooling itself may not be solely responsible for these extinctions. Teratological (malformed) assemblages of fossil plankton that correlate precisely with the extinction events can help identify alternate drivers of extinction. Here we show that metal poisoning may have caused these aberrant morphologies during a late Silurian (Pridoli) event. Malformations coincide with a dramatic increase of metals (Fe, Mo, Pb, Mn and As) in the fossils and their host rocks. Metallic toxins are known to cause a teratological response in modern organisms, which is now routinely used as a proxy to assess oceanic metal contamination. Similarly, our study identifies metal-induced teratology as a deep-time, palaeobiological monitor of palaeo-ocean chemistry. The redox-sensitive character of enriched metals supports emerging 'oceanic anoxic event' models. Our data suggest that spreading anoxia and redox cycling of harmful metals was a contributing kill mechanism during these devastating Ordovician-Silurian palaeobiological events.

FAU Authors / FAU Editors

Kießling, Wolfgang Prof. Dr.
Lehrstuhl für Paläoumwelt
Munnecke, Axel Prof. Dr.
Professur für Paläontologie (Schwerpunkt Faziesanalyse)

External institutions with authors

LILLE 1 University - Science and Technology
United States Geological Survey (USGS)
Université de Rennes 1 / University of Rennes 1
Universiteit Gent (UGent) / Ghent University
University of Lille Nord de France / Université Lille Nord de France / Université Lille II

Research Fields

Climate and Resources
Research focus area of a faculty: Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät

How to cite

Vandenbroucke, T.R., Emsbo, P., Munnecke, A., Nuns, N., Duponchel, L., Lepot, K.,... Kießling, W. (2015). Metal-induced malformations in early Palaeozoic plankton are harbingers of mass extinction. Nature Communications, 6.

Vandenbroucke, Thijs R.A., et al. "Metal-induced malformations in early Palaeozoic plankton are harbingers of mass extinction." Nature Communications 6 (2015).


Last updated on 2019-20-07 at 07:16