As a young child, my father would take me to the beach every weekend to watch the sand storms from his beach house in Hawaii.
“I would have a bucket full of sand, and I would bring it back to the house,” he told me, laughing.
“And then I’d give it to the kids to go and play on the sand, because they didn’t have sand shoes.
And it would always be in the same spot.”
I never forgot that day.
When I grew up, I never asked my father why he’d brought back the sand.
But now I do, as he has become a celebrity in the Pacific Northwest.
“The sand is my treasure,” he says.
And his treasure, it turns out, is the sea.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Why did you make the sand?'” he says, adding that the answer lies in a natural phenomenon known as tidal erosion.
“If you look at it on a geological scale, if you go out to the ocean and look at the rocks, you’ll see that most of them are actually formed by erosion.”
As the oceans age, they break up into sedimentary rocks, known as “fossil beds,” that sink into the ocean floor.
“As you go through the layers of the fossil beds, the rocks eventually come to the surface and are crushed,” he explains.
But unlike the rocks of the land, the sand is so fragile that it will never break.
That makes it a perfect breeding ground for the tiny toes of giant Pacific sea creatures.
“There are these giant sea creatures that grow to be almost as big as the land on average, and they have these gigantic toes,” says geologist Kevin Siegel, author of “Giant Land Animals: A Study of Giant Pacific Sea Animals.”
“The size of the toe, in the fossil bed, tells you how big they are, and that’s why it’s so hard to capture them in a photograph.”
Siegel has spent years trying to figure out what exactly makes these creatures so large.
His latest study, published in Nature Communications, takes a close look at what’s causing these giant-size toes.
The study is the first to take a close-up look at how the oceanic crusts are formed and then what causes the sea creatures to grow large and big.
“They have these big toes because they’re the largest organisms in the ocean,” says Siegel.
“That’s where the carbon is.”
In the fossil-bed rocks of Hawaii, Siegel found the fossilized remains of giant sea animals, like the one pictured above.
“These animals are the most gigantic sea creatures we have in the world,” he tells me.
“But what is it about these fossils that makes them so large?
We don’t really know.”
Sinker has been studying the fossil record since the 1970s.
“We are constantly trying to understand how organisms evolve,” he said.
“This fossil record is one of the most important things we have.”
What’s in the record?
So far, Sinker’s research has revealed that the fossil ocean is composed of several distinct layers, which all have unique properties.
The first layer, called the Cambrian, contains organic material, called metalloids, that was buried in the sediment.
The second layer, known colloquially as the Permian, contains the remains of the ocean’s core, which is made up of the remains, or organic matter, of the ancient ocean.
In the Permsian, the core is a layer that’s still largely intact, containing traces of life.
Siegel believes the fossils are the remnants of a deep ocean watery world.
The fossil sea is different.
“What we have is the organic matter that was left behind after the Permutations, and then the metalloid deposits, and the metamorphic rock, and all these layers of organic matter,” Siegel says.
“So it is quite different.”
“I love these giant animals,” Sink said.
So when he saw that giant sea creature on the beach, he was excited.
“It’s a great animal,” he adds.
But Siegel also knew there was more to the story.
“When you look down into the sea, you get this beautiful view of the deep ocean,” he explained.
“In the middle of the sea is this massive piece of sedimentary rock.
And then there’s a lot of the sedimentary sand, that you could just imagine is actually this giant piece of rock.
But in the middle is a piece of the marine ecosystem.”
The big toe that Siegel was looking at was a piece from a piece.
Sink says he was struck by how “big” the fossil sea creature was, and he wanted to know more about what caused it to grow so big.
So Siegel and his team decided to go to the Hawaiian Islands and take a look.
Skellei was born in Honolulu in