How plankton helped create the Earth's mountains 2 billion years ago

John Parnell* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


A world without the great mountain ranges – the Himalayas, the Alps, the Rockies, the Andes – is unimaginable, but they were not always a part of the Earth’s geography. Mountains didn’t start forming widely until 2 billion years ago, half way through the planet’s history. Now our research has revealed how primitive life played a key role in their introduction to the planet.

While the formation of mountains is usually associated with the collision of tectonic plates causing huge slabs of rock to be thrust skywards, our study has shown that this was triggered by an abundance of nutrients in the oceans 2 billion years ago which caused an explosion of planktonic life.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationThe Conversation
PublisherThe Conversation UK
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

John Parnell receives funding from NERC.


  • Geology
  • Carbon
  • Graphite
  • Mountains
  • Plankton
  • Earth's crust
  • Himalayas
  • Ocean life


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