Early Palaeozoic ocean anoxia and global warming driven by the evolution of shallow burrowing

Sebastiaan Van De Velde*, Benjamin J.W. Mills, Filip J.R. Meysman, Timothy M. Lenton, Simon W. Poulton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


The evolution of burrowing animals forms a defining event in the history of the Earth. It has been hypothesised that the expansion of seafloor burrowing during the Palaeozoic altered the biogeochemistry of the oceans and atmosphere. However, whilst potential impacts of bioturbation on the individual phosphorus, oxygen and sulphur cycles have been considered, combined effects have not been investigated, leading to major uncertainty over the timing and magnitude of the Earth system response to the evolution of bioturbation. Here we integrate the evolution of bioturbation into the COPSE model of global biogeochemical cycling, and compare quantitative model predictions to multiple geochemical proxies. Our results suggest that the advent of shallow burrowing in the early Cambrian contributed to a global low-oxygen state, which prevailed for ~100 million years. This impact of bioturbation on global biogeochemistry likely affected animal evolution through expanded ocean anoxia, high atmospheric CO2 levels and global warming.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2554
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'Early Palaeozoic ocean anoxia and global warming driven by the evolution of shallow burrowing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this