On one of the more dramatic days of the week, the sea floor was strewn with hundreds of thousands of tiny pieces of glass.
On the other side of the sea, some of the world’s most famous reefs were strewn like sardines.
These glass fragments, all found off the coast of the Bahamas, have helped scientists understand the marine environment and what life in the deep sea looks like.
A study published in Science magazine on Tuesday showed that these tiny fragments were the earliest evidence of life on Earth, about a billion years ago.
“We found the earliest known evidence of planktonic algae,” said co-author Dr Adam Rauch, an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales, who co-authored the study.
“That is, plankton, tiny algae that have a structure like a leaf and then some.
It is the earliest record of life that we have found on Earth.””
We know that there is life out there somewhere in the ocean, but what we have seen here in this area, this area off the Bahamas is a truly unique find.”
It is a huge area and it is just absolutely amazing,” he said.
The sea floor off the west coast of Florida is rich in carbonate, which forms when limestone rocks absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
It’s also a rich place for life, with hundreds, if not thousands, of species that live on the rocks.”
One of the things that is really important about the area is that we don’t have the complete record of the life that existed there at that time,” Raucher said.”
We have found some fragments of planktons that are older than 100 million years, but we do not have that complete record.””
There are a lot of places that are completely devoid of life, and we have to wait for the next generation to be able to find those places,” he added.”
And this area is one of those places.
“The glass fragments were discovered off the east coast of New York state by an Australian team led by Dr Michael Schoenfeld, who is now working with the researchers.
The researchers collected samples of the glass from a depth of about 40 metres off the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico.”
This is the deepest known collection of marine glass, and the earliest recorded history of planktic algae,” he told BBC News.”
They were originally found at a depth around 100 metres, but were later discovered off New York, at a depths of 100 metres.””
The glass is so thin and transparent that we can see it quite clearly, and it shows a lot about the ocean floor,” he continued.”
There is a large number of species in this glass, many of which are quite different to plankton.
“In the Bahamas alone, more than 700,000 plankton species have been recorded, and more than 200 have been found in the area.”
Most of these plankton were probably just eating algae off the bottom, but there are a number of things that we know about the plankton that are quite important, including a lot more than just the plankts themselves,” Schoenfried said.
Image caption The glass fragment found off Florida has been dated to about 50 million years old – the earliest fossil evidence of a marine life known to scientists.”
These are the earliest fossils of planktons, and they are so small that you can’t see them,” he explained.”
The plankton is so transparent, and you can see what it is doing and what it’s eating.
“If you look at the glass, you can really see it’s very small, so that makes it really exciting.”
In fact, the researchers have been able to use the glass to date the fragments to a time when plankton had no shells.
“Some of these ancient fossils are pretty spectacular,” Schoehnfeld said.”[They show] that we had very limited ability to study the ocean around the world before the emergence of marine plankton.”
So, we know that plankton are important because they eat algae, but they also make carbon dioxide and nutrients that make the ocean a habitable place for our planet.””
In fact it’s actually a pretty good proxy for the evolution of marine life, because the planktons are the ones that provide the carbon, so it’s really a good way to compare what we see in the marine world with what we know in the fossil record,” he concluded.
The glass fragment was found off New Jersey and was found on a reef at the site where a few years ago the researchers were studying the glass.
In recent years, scientists have been using glass from the deep ocean to study deep-sea life.
For example, scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in Darwin have found more than a dozen different types of plankts on the seafloor of the Indian Ocean.
The team has also been using these tiny pieces to date and track fossils of fish,