Fossils with gold sheen

Fossils of the bivalve Pseudomytiloides dubius preserved in a layer of the mineral iron pyrite, known as ‘fool’s gold’

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Beautiful fossils reveal a deadly past

These fossils from North Yorkshire were part of a huge study that reveals the devastating impacts of global warming on marine life.

At 183 million years old, they date to a time in the early Jurassic when natural global warming caused the extinction of many marine animals.

The study compared more than 11,000 fossils to chemical signatures in the surrounding rocks, indicating things like ocean temperature and oxygen levels, to discover which environmental changes impacted marine life.

Researchers found that spreading areas of low oxygen on the sea floor, known as ‘dead zones’, were a major cause of extinction. These dead zones are driven by climate change and changes in nutrient levels in the sea.

The results of the study could be used to predict the impacts on marine life caused by modern climate change. ‘The spread of oxygen-poor dead zones is widely acknowledged as a major threat to modern shelf seas. It is happening now,’ said Museum palaeontologist Prof Richard Twitchett, who led the research.