Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Natural history

Selenium linked to mass extinctions

Subjects

Plummeting ocean reserves of selenium could have played a part in past mass extinctions.

Selenium and other trace elements help certain enzymes to function and perform other essential biochemical duties in organisms. John Long at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and his team estimated ocean selenium levels over the past 560 million years by analysing it in marine pyrite samples. Selenium concentrations fluctuated drastically, but sharp drops coincided with several mass extinctions — including one at the end of the Triassic 200 million years ago.

Crashes in selenium levels may have acted in concert with changes in oxygen and carbon cycles to drive mass extinctions, the authors say.

Gondwana Res. http://doi.org/834 (2015)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Selenium linked to mass extinctions. Nature 527, 279 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/527279c

Download citation

Search

Quick links