Claim: World’s first animals caused global warming

From the University of Exeter and the “everything causes global warming and it’s bad, bad, according to our model and leaps of logic” department.

The evolution of Earth’s first animals more than 500 million years ago caused global warming, new research shows.

Some 520-540 million years ago, animal life evolved in the ocean and began breaking down organic material on the seafloor, leading to more carbon dioxide and less oxygen in the atmosphere.

In the 100 million years that followed, conditions for these earliest animals became much harsher, as ocean oxygen levels fell and carbon dioxide caused global warming.

The research, published in Nature Communications, is from the Universities of Exeter, Leeds and Antwerp, and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

“Like worms in a garden, tiny creatures on the seabed disturb, mix and recycle dead organic material – a process known as bioturbation,” said Professor Tim Lenton, from the University of Exeter.

“Because the effect of animals burrowing is so big, you would expect to see big changes in the environment when the whole ocean floor changes from an undisturbed state to a bioturbated state.”

“We did indeed see a decrease in oxygen levels in the ocean around 520 million years ago,” said Professor Filip Meysman, from the University of Antwerp.

“But evidence from the rock record showed sediment was only a little disturbed.”

Professor Simon Poulton, from the University of Leeds, said: “This meant that the animals living in the seafloor at that time were not very active, and did not move very deep into the seabed.

“At first sight, these two observations did not seem to add up.”

Lead author Dr Sebastiaan van de Velde, of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, explained: “The critical factor was to realise that the biggest changes happen at the lowest levels of animal activity.

“This meant that the first bioturbators had a massive impact.”

The researchers said this realisation was the “missing piece of the puzzle”, and allowed them to construct a mathematical model of Earth around that time to look to the changes caused by these early life forms.

Dr Benjamin Mills, also from the University of Leeds, who led this part of the research, said: “When we ran our model, we were surprised by what we saw.

“The evolution of these small animals did indeed decrease the oxygen in the ocean and atmosphere, but also increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to such an extent that it caused a global warming event.

“We knew that warming occurred at this point in Earth history, but did not realise it could be driven by animals.”

This process made conditions worse for these animals, which possibly contributed to a number of mass extinction events during the first 100 million years of animal evolution.

“There is an interesting parallel between the earliest animals changing their world in a way that was bad for them, and what we human animals are doing to the planet now,” said Professor Lenton, director of Exeter’s new Global Systems Institute, which aims to develop transformative solutions to the challenges facing the world today.

“We are creating a hotter world with expanding ocean anoxia (oxygen deficiency) which is bad for us and a lot of other creatures we share the planet with.”


The paper is entitled: “Early Palaeozoic ocean anoxia and global warming driven by the evolution of shallow burrowing.”

107 thoughts on “Claim: World’s first animals caused global warming

    • all this academic burbling has turned into a game where everyone who needs to publish a paper to show that they’re doing something, no matter the topic, now is following the formula of “blah blah blah blah GLOBAL WARMING!!! blah blah blah blah.”

      It’s spotlighting the fact that the entire academic publishing world has become a massive con, and a complete joke.

    • pretty much….the only thing settled about science…is half of it contradicts what the other half says

    • GEE, I didn’t realize that Nature would evolve a species whose own existence would be the cause of it’s own extinction. I thought Evolution was smarter than that.
      It seems like Man isn’t to blame after all…Animals will destroy themselves without Manns assistance.
      Seems like yet just another paper trying to reinforce the CO2 control knob theory.

      • ” which possibly contributed to a number of mass extinction events during the first 100 million years of animal evolution.”

        “Possibly”, so total speculation backed up with zero factual data. Either there was ” a number of mass extinction events” or there wasn’t . If you don’t have any evidence of there even being one, then STFU. This is NOT science.

        And , just by coincidence, this baseless speculation leads them to an uncanny parallel with their political agenda for today , ALMOST as though it proves this has happened before and we can see where we are heading.

        • Greg

          Thankfully, mankind is heading into the unknown. We have never been there before and we have no control over what happens.

          I mean, we can’t control what happens in the next five minutes of an individuals life, never mind the next hundred years of an entire species.

          Life is an adventure, enjoy the ride and dance like no ones watching.

          ~No one wants to watch me dance, I don’t want to watch me dance~

  1. What about the Oxygen?

    That was created by life-forms. Completely ruined the original Nitrogen mix, and encouraged dangerous fire.

    Get rid of it immediately!

    • Gee, I was always under the thought that cyanobacteria and the bio blankets created by them (stromatolites fossils) were the first creatures. They did drastically alter the earths atmosphere as they were the first photosynthesizers who created the O2 in the atmosphere.
      Of course they were responsible for a dramatic reduction in atmospheric CO2.

      • Cyanobacteria aren’t animals, however, but, as their name implies, bacteria, ie prokaryote unicells.

        Animals are one of the three multicellular eukaryote kingdoms, with our fellow heterotrophic relatives the fungi and more distant autotrophic relatives the plants.

  2. So, we are merely playing the end game .. rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic .. of sorts ?

    • Thankfully, the ship is only sinking at 3mm per year. Somebody ask the band if they know any other tunes than “Nearer My God to Thee”.

      • Maybe they know “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees. When I was taught CPR, they used that song to provide the proper tempo to do CPR.

  3. Complete fantasy! They made a mathematical model and were suprised to find…Oh and by the way, animals without hard preservable parts were in the ocean at least another 0.5Byrs before that!! I’m amazed and disgusted that these X-Box clime academics are so self sufficient that they needn’t walk down the hall and speak to profs of paleontology/geology, chemistry and engineering.

    • They’ve already determined that they know more about statistics than professional statisticians. So why shouldn’t they know more paleontology as well?

    • … X-Box clime academics …

      There was a time, not that long ago, when you could build a decent supercomputer out of a cluster of X-Boxes. link

      These days you can build a decent little supercomputer using a cluster of Raspberry Pis. link

      A climate scientist who can build her own supercomputer would, if such a person existed, get a lot more of my respect than I normally accord climate scientists.

    • Indeed, if the molecular clocks are more correct than the rocks, then, far from being the earliest, Cambrian animals are about midway through metazoan evolution so far.

  4. Oh and BTW, the Cambrian average atmospheric CO2 was 4500ppm over the entire Cambrian.

    So the whole exercise can be chalked up to scientific ignorance. CO2 was already very high from the Precambrian and began to decline moving through subsequent eras with ppt of carbonates and, in the Carboniferous, the global lay down of coal. Disgusting.

    • These people don’t use wikipedia in their research ? No wonder they come with these results.
      How did these animals survive an acid ocean?

      • I use it for non controversial topics. It stops them in their tracks. Monckton has been beating alarmists over the head with IPCC sci3nce for years There is no defense against it!

    • Poor old ‘correlation’! The point that correlation doesn’t (necessarily) point to causation has been flogged so unremittingly here that many among lay visitors have probably come to thinking that correlation is a bad thing to have for a factor supporting an hypothesis. I pop up from time to time to advise that correlation is essential in the search for causation, however.

      • Yes, Gary, but you do have an obligation not to just stop there and actually investigate possible causes before declaring causation. The earliest AGW hypothesis involved a water vapor feedback. Any major research programs into water vapor back then? Or was it just a lot of hand waving based on plausibility. I remember bringing up the water vapor feedback to somebody I thought should understand its importance and the reaction was just “it’s settled then”. Plausibility is all that appears to be needed nowadays in order to have a hypothesis raised to scientific certainty. As long as all they key elements are out in the grey area of unknown or insufficiently measured, the reaction becomes “so prove me wrong”.

        When the water vapor feedback was quietly dropped, the hypothesized enhanced sensitivity was kept. This should be a massive red flag to anybody paying attention.

      • I pop up from time to time to advise that correlation is essential in the search for causation, however.

        Not even.

        As I demonstrate in a previous comment, it is possible to calculate zero correlation in a situation where causality clearly exists. link

        • I saw that and felt you hadnt worked hard enough to make the causation connection it 8s more than the motion of the hand.

          • I’m tired and am having trouble getting your meaning. Is there a typo?

            Anyway, I would go further. Data dredging, or p-hacking, is the process of going through a large database looking for correlations. More often than not it produces spurious correlations. That’s one big reason why most published research findings are false.

            I would say the most important thing in finding causation is to understand the system involved and to try developing viable hypotheses. At that point, correlation might be one way to validate the hypothesis.

      • The primary importance of correlation in supporting a theory is that lack of correlation falsifies the hypothesis. Strong correlation does not prove the hypothesis but provides reason to continue investigation. In many cases one may find that a strong correlation is not a result of A causing B, but rather C causing both A and B (or maybe C, D, E, F and G cause A and B).

  5. global warming driven by the evolution of shallow burrowing.”

    This has to be a joke, right?

  6. Maybe those researchers need to copy the animals to escape from global warming by burrowing into the ground themselves and become terra turbators or maybe EVERY climate researcher has to do the same thing and thus become mass turbators.

  7. The paper is entitled: “Early Palaeozoic ocean anoxia and global warming driven by the evolution of shallow burrowing.”

    Here’s the title of my rebuttal paper:

    Early Anthropocene dementia and global warming delusions driven by the evolution of shallow thinking

  8. I see! “. . . like worms in a garden . . . crawling among the oceans . . . amoeba-like things that that became beings that bored . . . cooked the globe . . . extincted animals . . . got it! Turn the channel! Turn the channel! Let’s see what else is on!

  9. So these “researchers” discovered that bioturdation in the ocean caused global warming.

    “When we ran our model, we were surprised by what we saw.” Explained: The models showed us what we wanted.

    “The critical factor was to realise that the biggest changes happen at the lowest levels of animal activity. This meant that the first bioturbators (sic) had a massive impact.” Explained: They ran the model 42 times through their turbo-encabulator using the turbo-entabulator program they wrote!

    Unfortunately the land based results by the worms bioturdation will only be released when they get more government funding.

    • Right. Keep on running the model until you get what you want. Early on in my medical training this was done with mice. If your proof required that mice run a maze towards a particular goal, all you did was throw the mice that did not behave against the wall. Only the cooperative mice survived. Bingo hypothesis proven.

  10. Bbbut – if animals cause global warming and animals appeared so many aeons ago, shouldn’t everything have burned up long before SUV’s?

    Just asking?

  11. “In the 100 million years that followed, conditions for these earliest animals became much harsher, as ocean oxygen levels fell and carbon dioxide caused global warming.”

    If only creatures with tiny lifespans had some way of adapting to slowly changing conditions over 100 million years…

    As for a “parallel” with humans now, is it going to take 100 million years again for this to be bad? because if it is, I want my money back.

  12. “The initial decrease in marine organic carbon burial at 520 Ma (marked by the drop in δ13Ccarb from 2‰ to 0‰; Fig. 5r) is accompanied by an increase in ocean anoxia”

    This becomes very complicated. Organic Carbon burial rate is a gauge of ocean primary productivity as well as (according to this effort) an indication with the opposite sign of secondary utilization by burrowing creatures.

    A reduction in 13C indicates increased biological productivity of all kinds, as might be expected during the Cambrian “explosion”. There interpretation of anoxia is certainly questionable, as Oxygen levels are generally thought to have increased steadily until the Pennsylvanian. Increased O2 is even touted as a reason for the explosion.

    Photosynthetic activity was not taking place on land at the time.

    • Yep, agree, while it is well known that deep waters require organic imports for life, gravity the ultimate sinker, and the interest in the subject is valuable, it is easy to doubt that the extrapolations necessary are complete. The authors seem to realize this–(“ In general, the effect of the evolution of bioturbation on ocean sulphate concentration remains uncertain. ), but I would have left out the last line of their abstract. We don’t seem to understand the modern system well enough yet.

      Wait until they discover (have they?) non-assimilated materials (feces). Ocean life is tough, the good stuff is often on the bottom stealing your oxygen. The number of pelagic fish known to eat bottom animals is not small. Wonder when the agnathans started slurping, at least 500? million years ago.

    • Mods,

      My comment about photosynthesis on land during the Precambrian and Cambrian was for some reason moderated, but has not yet appeared.

      It was entirely inoffensive and factual.

  13. Yes, and Exxon and everyone else with money and assets knew about this. Crank up the nuisance lawsuit machine

  14. Okay will this make the news at NYT, LAT, and NPR? It needs a lot more exposure than it’s due.


    The only global temperature dataset that both sides trust is the one above from the UAH satellite. Alarmists will take comfort that the mean temperature anomoly went up to 0.21 degrees C over 40 year average which is total spread of .105 C per decade which is 1.05 C per century. So the debate continues. We skeptics cant yet point to a temperature non increase, but the alarmists cant yet point to any alarming increase either. I HOPE THAT BOTH SIDES CAN PUBLICLY ADMIT THAT THIS IS THE ONLY TEMPERATURE DATASET THAT WE CAN TRUST.

    • Alan

      I have watched virtually every commentator manipulate data to suit their beliefs on this blog.

      And I’ll repeat what I have said before, the difference between alarmists and sceptics is the difference between pessimism and optimism.

      Personally I have faith in mankind. Successful science is merely a lucky coincidence. Scientists are more often wrong than right, otherwise, there would be no need for experiments.

      America was discovered (by Europeans) with optimism, not science. There was a bit of curiosity in there, so optimism and curiosity then, and a touch of courage of course.

      So OK, optimism, curiosity, and courage, but that’s it!

      Maybe a bit of luck, perhaps a sliver of science…….That’s definitely it, that’s all!

      A ton of optimism, a load of curiosity, a slice of courage, loadsa luck, and a soupçon of science………….Then there’s……No!

      That’s it!


    • Earth is continuing to cool off from its early 2016 hot flash, induced by another super El Nino, as in 1998.

  16. If you want a thoroughly-influenced atmosphere, it was the early photosynthesizers that did it. They gave off oxygen, and changed our atmosphere from reducing to oxidizing. That (probably) caused the greatest extinction event of them all, when all the obligate anoxic organisms died off. Anything else is small change.

    • However it probably didn’t cause that much extinctions, it simply restricted the obligate anaerobs to anoxic environments. There are still huge numbers of obligate anaerobs around, some of them even in our own bodies. Some of the bacteria causing dental abscesses are obligate anaerobs for example:

      The anaerobs strike back!

      “Instead of a trickle, it was more like a firehose,” said Clara Blättler, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Geosciences at Princeton and first author on the study, which was published online by the journal Science on Thursday, March 22. “It was a major change in the production of oxygen.”

      A lot of today’s mineral deposits were suddenly produced. Of course there are anaerobs around deep sea vents, and as Thomas Gold says in the deep hot biosphere.
      The O2 and O3 atmosphere changed everything. Imagine, bacteria reached for Solar radiation, not just the old slow chemosynth stuff.

  17. What happened to all the critters that eat CO2 and produce O2? You know the ones that were responsible for there being any O2 in the atmosphere in the first place?

  18. if EVERYTHING causes Global Warm…aahhh we really meant Climate Change all along. Then how the hell do these government scientists, Actor Activists and politicians think they can control it? The rest of us know that if we significantly degrade the quality of life by imposing a system of carbon credits (for everyone but the politically connected and it drives up the cost of energy (read living) painfully for everyone but the rich and famous the climate is going to change anyway. So the simple answer is they know the climate changes and there is nothing they can do about it. But they have been afraid of overpopulation in the face of limited resources since they read Ehrlich’s “Population Bomb” and feel compelled to control the great unwashed by frightening the masses into turning to the feckless government for salvation. Your politicians can’t control the climate but they can control you. And they will control you for selfish reasons. Doubt it? Talk to the rich and famous they see fossil fuel as THEIR natural resource. Which is why Leonardo DiCrapio flies his personal jets around the world to attend Rock Concerts and Climate Conferences to demand the rest of us stop using his Coal and Oil.

  19. Such intellectual masturbation. Anyone that wants a scientific exploration of the Pre-Cambrian Explosion 530 MYA needs to read Dr. Steven C. Meyer’s “DARWIN’S DOUBT” a primer on the case for Intelligent Design. Bring your critical thinking.

    • Your critical thinking apparently does not extend to knowing the difference between the Pre-Cambrian and the Cambrian. The “Cambrian explosion” happened in the early Cambrian c. 540-520 MYA.

      • Sorry my mistake which you correctly pointed out is due to my Expressive Aphasia suffered as a result of three strokes. As a result I am subject to being human.

    • Meyer is a shameless, professional liar, not a scientist, let alone a biologist.

      His book is a pack of ignorant mendacities.

  20. This whole thing feels extremely shaky. It is all modelling with very little real data. Ocean anoxia is normally associated with large positive d13c anomalies, but there is little signs of that in this time intervals, and none of the three extinctions at 517, 502 and 485 (the biggest) million years ago coincides with a peak. There was a big peak at the Hirnantian (=End Ordovician) mass extinction 444 million years ago, suggesting that it was anoxia-related, but that is not a politically correct extinction since it coincides with a large, sudden and very embarrassing glaciation (there was about 4,000 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere at the time).

    Paper at:

    And a suggestion for WUWT: try to include a link to the actual paper in posts like this. Reading press releases is largely useless, they are written by scientific ignoramuses and has very nearly zero information cintent.

  21. Results from another model, boy these folk know how to spend tax payer money – but seriously do they get paid for producing such utter garbage? Most would not know what happened last year never mind half a billion years ago. Opinions dressed up as facts and money too, good to be on the gravy train.

  22. “…increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to such an extent that it caused a global warming event.”

    More circular groupthink based on correlation only.

  23. I do wish the people that call themselves scientists would do a little experimental work with equipment and materials they can buy and use safely for a few Dollars. This paper is more nonsense than not. I prove what I say:

    Read “CO2 Is Innocent” at and clip-copy, print, take to a Chemistry or Physics teacher for authentication of chemistry, stoichiometry and physics, do the demo-experiment for a few Dollars and see for yourself that CO2 additions to the atmosphere on the order of those expected do not raise the temperature of air and we explain why. Anthropogenic global warming is panic pushing propaganda promoting political power.

  24. Despite the hype, there is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate and plenty of scientific rational to support the idea that the climate sensitivity of CO2 is zero. I doubt that primitive animal life some 500 million years caused global warming but rather global warming enabled the evolution of animal life. Animal life is an effect of global warming and not a cause.

  25. “When we ran our model, we were surprised by what we saw.”

    No you weren’t. It just produced what you put into it.

    Need I say: ‘Garbage in, garbage out’? Maybe that’s too sarcastic.
    A more frivolous expression would be: ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ QED

  26. Nearly Speechless!
    Can Professor Lenton and his team tell us whether some 520-540 million years ago, CO2 in the atmosphere was,say, 20 ppm?
    If so, and greenhouse gas growth for purposes of ECS is logarithmic, continual doubling since would mean, why, doubling from pre-1750 levels at 280ppm to later this century would be inconsequential.
    Or am I missing something?

  27. I guess a headline such as
    Claim: global warming caused World’s first animals
    wold probably not make front page.

  28. So now someone is modeling biological processes that happened 500 million years ago? Now that is asking for a lot of data manipulation and manufacturing.

  29. “The evolution of Earth’s first animals more than 500 million years ago caused global warming, new research shows.”

    So climate change is completely natural and can occur without any contributions from humans. So why fight it? It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature…

  30. So, how warm was it before the photosynthesizers started generating O2in the first place?

    • Photosynthesis started long before the Cambrian, in the Archean Eon. The oxygen it produced rusted iron out of the oceans for a long time before it could start building up in the seas and air, early in the Proterozoic Eon.

      Temperature in the Archean and Proterozoic Eons swung wildly and widely, to include hot tub temperature oceans and Snowball Earth episodes.

  31. These people are a waste of time and money.

    They weren’t there at that time. They do not have measurements, they have nothing but calculations.

    I could make an obscene comment about the contents of their digestive systems, but Anthony would give me a scold for it, so I will repeat my earlier message: STOP GIVING MONEY TO THESE PEOPLE!

  32. The Ediacaran (last Precambrian period) fauna shows burrowing or tunneling before the Cambrian.

    The difference is that the bottom, literally, of the Ediacaran food chain was cyanobacterial slime mats on the shallow seafloor, plus maybe some algae. Green plants hadn’t evolved yet.

    A major cause of the so-called Cambrian Explosion was the mass extinction event resulting from Ediacaran animals’ having consumed the slime mats. Thus, the Cambrian was like the Triassic Explosion, a rapid adaptive radiation of new forms following a massive extinction event, ie the end Permian Great Dying in the case of the Triassic.

    Other factors, such as increased predation, better sensory apparatus, such as eyes and more mineralization, perhaps in response to predation, also contributed to the apparent “explosion”. But in large part, the seeming explosion owes simply to the evolution of larger animals with hard body parts, enabling better fossil preservation.

  33. I see where this article is going. For one, it reinforces the consensus that the warming (with the value-added adjustments that call for saving us with global socialism) we are seeing today is due to white males and capitalism.

    • That’s right. White males and capitalism are responsible for the Leuko-Anthropocene Mass Extinction.

      Or I guess Leuco, to jibe with “-cene”.

  34. ‘They’ of course have it all backwards. Global warming caused animals to appear and evolve. It happened this way – The earth was a frozen ball of “stuff” until it drifted into the Sun’s orbit where it was warmed. Nothing was alive on/in the frozen ball. The earth warmed in the sun – hence the term global warming. Life appeared.
    That is all we need to know!
    I know this the same way many other ‘climate scientists’ know anything – it is simply obvious. QED

  35. “From the University of Exeter and the “everything causes global warming and it’s bad, bad, according to our model and leaps of logic” department.

    The evolution of Earth’s first animals more than 500 million years ago caused global warming, new research shows.

    Some 520-540 million years ago, animal life evolved in the ocean and began breaking down organic material on the seafloor, leading to more carbon dioxide and less oxygen in the atmosphere.”

    – So animal life took up oxigen and released CO2.

    -that enhanced plant production in the oceans and on land.

    – which allowed flora to settle the land and fauna to follow.

    — “evolution 500 million years ago caused global warming, new research shows”.

    500 million years is a pretty long span for developing CAGW.

    — so we, flora and fauna, have another 500 million years to adapt. To a changing climate.

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