Interronauts | Episode 6: The Great Dying, anal mandrills, cutting cow methane w/ seaweed, & Neanderthal jewellery

By Jesse Hawley

21 April 2017

This episode we talk about how the world’s worst extinction was caused by microbes, mandrills that don’t groom those with sickly faeces, Neanderthal’s making jewellery, and their chat with Dr Rob Kinley about his research feeding seaweed to cows to neutralise their methane emissions. Methane special!

Science news

Interview

Asparagopsis taxiformis, one of the seaweed/algae species investigated by Rob.

We speak with Dr Rob Kinley, who’s researching various species of algae to neutralise the production of methane from cows, a significant contributor to global warming. For more on Rob’s research check out this blog.

Nickel’s role in the worst mass extinction event

“Around 250 million years ago, life on Earth nearly came to an end, in a mass extinction between the Permian and Triassic periods known as the Great Dying. Some 90% of the species in the oceans and 70% of vertebrate families on land were killed, and the great marine life experiment of the Palaeozoic era was brought to a halt. The Conversation

What does this have to do with nickel? Well, as part of my recent work as a mining geologist, which involves studying the world’s most valuable nickel ore deposits in Siberia, I uncovered evidence of a link between ore genesis – how the nickel got there – and the onset of the Great Dying,” from our blog. The full story from the scientist herself, here.

And for the record, the bubbles formed in the ore are not from rapid cooling. Here’s the follow up from the researcher:

“It’s not actually because of rapid cooling. The intrusions that host the Noril’sk deposits actually cooled very slowly. What we are seeing in the rocks aren’t the bubbles themselves, but what became of them after the intrusion cooled down and crystallized. Most of the bubbles and their attached sulfide bleb did not get preserved in the intrusion. They would have floated up all the way to the surface, releasing their nickel in the atmosphere. The ones that we are seeing are the ones that didn’t manage to make it to the surface. The ratio of sulfide to gas was probably not good, the sulfide blebs were too big and heavy to be carried by the gas bubble that was attached to them, and instead of floating to the top, they sank in the magmatic intrusion and got stuck in the lower part of the intrusions. Once there, crystalisation would have started, creating a rigid framework of olivine crystals around the bubbles and associated sulfides, blocking them the way out! The bubbles then slowly got infilled by residual melt as the intrusion was slowly cooling and crystallizing. We now recognize in the rocks what used to be gas bubble by looking at the shape and mineral composition of what filled up the bubbles.”

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