Living fossils in the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool: A refuge for thermophilic dinoflagellates during glaciations

May 08, 2014

Ghent University scientists report the unique discovery of the marine dinoflagellate Dapsilidinium pastielsii from Southeast Asia, notably the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool (IPWP). This unicellular species, with planktonic and benthic stages, was previously thought to have become extinct within the early Pleistocene. It evolved more than 50 million years ago and is the last survivor of a major early Cenozoic lineage.

The of living D. pastielsii in the IPWP suggests that this stable environment served as an important refuge for thermophilic dinoflagellates, and its disappearance from the Atlantic following the early Pleistocene implicates cooling. This study highlights the importance of refugia in plankton biogeography and broadens their relevance as hotspots of biodiversity. It explains how biostratigraphic ranges in the Pacific can significantly extend those established for the Atlantic. Our discovery of D. pastielsii as a "living fossil" in the IPWP highlights the potential for refugia to harbor likely to expand their distributional range in a warming world.

This unicellular species, with planktonic and benthic stages, was previously thought to have become extinct within the early Pleistocene. It evolved more than 50 million years ago and is the last survivor of a major early Cenozoic lineage. The discovery of living D. pastielsii in the IPWP suggests that this stable environment served as an important refuge for thermophilic dinoflagellates, and its disappearance from the Atlantic following the early Pleistocene implicates cooling.

This study highlights the importance of refugia in plankton biogeography and broadens their relevance as hotspots of biodiversity. It explains how biostratigraphic ranges in the Pacific can significantly extend those established for the Atlantic. Our discovery of D. pastielsii as a "living fossil" in the IPWP highlights the potential for refugia to harbor species likely to expand their distributional range in a warming world.

Explore further: DNA samples from fungi collections provide key to mushroom 'tree of life'

More information: Kenneth N. Mertens, Yoshihito Takano, Martin J. Head, and Kazumi Matsuoka. "Living fossils in the Indo-Pacific warm pool: A refuge for thermophilic dinoflagellates during glaciations." Geology, G35456.1, first published on April 10, 2014, DOI: 10.1130/G35456.1

Related Stories

Researchers discover rare fossil ape cranium in China

Sep 06, 2013

A team of researchers has discovered the cranium of a fossil ape from Shuitangba, a Miocene site in Yunnan Province, China. The juvenile cranium of the fossil ape Lufengpithecus is significant, according to team member Nina J ...

Multiple species of seacows once coexisted: study

Mar 08, 2012

Sirenians, or seacows, are a group of marine mammals that include manatees and dugongs; today, only one species of seacow is found in each world region. Smithsonian scientists have discovered that this was ...

Recommended for you

Estuaries protect Dungeness crabs from deadly parasites

18 hours ago

Parasitic worms can pose a serious threat to the Dungeness crab, a commercially important fishery species found along the west coast of North America. The worms are thought to have caused or contributed to ...

Our bond with dogs may go back more than 27,000 years

May 21, 2015

Dogs' special relationship to humans may go back 27,000 to 40,000 years, according to genomic analysis of an ancient Taimyr wolf bone reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 21. Earlier genome ...

Social structure 'helps birds avoid a collision course'

May 21, 2015

The sight of skilful aerial manoeuvring by flocks of Greylag geese to avoid collisions with York's Millennium Bridge intrigued mathematical biologist Dr Jamie Wood. It raised the question of how birds collectively ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.