‘Ghost’ fossils preserve haunting record of ancient life on a hellish Earth

Ghostly imprints of tiny plankton-like creatures have been found haunting the sediments of prehistoric oceans at a time when such organisms were thought to be extinct. The so-called nannofossil imprints reveal that the organisms survived acidic oceans caused by climate change, and could offer a clue for how modern creatures can endure rising ocean temperatures, researchers 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 measures less than 0.001 inch (30 micrometers) wide, and is surrounded by a hard layer of geometric calcium scales, according to the Faculty of Geosciences at the University of Bremen in Germany. And these nanofossils are incredibly abundant.

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