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The major trends and events of the evolution of ocean life, circulation, and chemistry since the Early Cretaceous have been established through deep-sea drilling. A. G. Fischer and M. A. Arthur emphasized the long-term correlations between variations in global characteristics of ancient oceans (diversity, temperature, sediment continuity, oxygenation, eustatic sea level, carbon-isotope values). H. Thierstein and W. Berger summarized the evidence for the occurrence of abrupt changes in such ocean characteristics.
It is argued that relatively few basic mechanisms--activated by crustal motion, and atmospheric feedback within the global heat budget--can account for the observed paleo-oceanographic phenomena. The "geologic setting" of the various periods of earth history and the partitioning of the record within the established time scale hinge on these paleo-oceanographic factors.
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