‘Ghost’ Fossils Preserve Haunting Records of Ancient Life on a Hellish Earth

Ghostly footprints of tiny plankton-like creatures have been found haunting the sediments of prehistoric oceans at a time when these organisms were thought to be extinct. The so-called nannofossil footprints reveal that the organisms survived acidic oceans caused by climate change and could offer a clue to how modern creatures can withstand rising ocean temperatures, researchers have said.

Nannofossils are the remains of marine plankton called coccolithophores (cox-oh-LITH’-oh-fours), which belong to the class Prymnesiophyceae and still exist today at the bottom of many ocean food chains. Each of these single-celled algae-like organisms is less than 0.001 inch (30 micrometers) wide and surrounded by a tough layer of geometric scales of calcium, according to the Faculty of Geosciences at the University of Bremen in Germany. And these nannofossils are incredibly abundant.

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