Late inception of a resiliently oxygenated upper ocean

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Abstract

Rising oceanic and atmospheric oxygen levels through time have been crucial to enhanced habitability of surface Earth environments. Few redox proxies can track secular variations in dissolved oxygen concentrations around threshold levels for metazoan survival in the upper ocean. We present an extensive compilation of iodine-to-calcium ratios (I/Ca) in marine carbonates. Our record supports a major rise in the partial pressure of oxygen in the atmosphere at ~400 million years (Ma) ago and reveals a step change in the oxygenation of the upper ocean to relatively sustainable near-modern conditions at ~200 Ma ago. An Earth system model demonstrates that a shift in organic matter remineralization to greater depths, which may have been due to increasing size and biomineralization of eukaryotic plankton, likely drove the I/Ca signals at ~200 Ma ago.

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