Experimental measurement of growth patterns on fossil corals: Secular variation in ancient Earth-Sun distances


In recent years, much attention has been given to the increase in the Earth-Sun distance, with the modern rate reported as 5–15 m/cy on the basis of astronomical measurements. However, traditional methods cannot measure the ancient leaving rates, so a myriad of research attempting to provide explanations were met with unmatched magnitudes. In this paper we consider that the growth patterns on fossils could reflect the ancient Earth-Sun relationships. Through mechanical analysis of both the Earth-Sun and Earth-Moon systems, these patterns confirmed an increase in the Earth-Sun distance. With a large number of well-preserved specimens and new technology available, both the modern and ancient leaving rates could be measured with high precision, and it was found that the Earth has been leaving the Sun over the past 0.53 billion years. The Earth’s semi-major axis was 146 million kilometers at the beginning of the Phanerozoic Eon, equating to 97.6% of its current value. Measured modern leaving rates are 5–14 m/cy, whereas the ancient rates were much higher. Experimental results indicate a special expansion with an average expansion coefficient of 0.57H 0 and deceleration in the form of Hubble drag. On the basis of experimental results, the Earth’s semi-major axis could be represented by a simple formula that matches fossil measurements.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1

    Wells J W. Coral growth and geochronometry. Nature, 1963, 197: 948–950

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Lambeck K. The Earth’s Variable Rotation: Geophysical Causes and Consequences. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979. 449

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Runcorn S K. Changes in the Earth’s moment of inertia. Nature, 1964, 204: 823–825

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Mazzullo S. Length of the year during the Silurian and Devonian Periods: New values. Geol Soc Am Bull, 1971, 82: 1085–1086

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Johnson G A L, Nudds J R. Growth Rhythms and the History of the Earth’s Rotation. London: John Wiley, 1975. 27–41

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Scrutton C T. Periodicity in Devonian coral growth. Palaeontology, 1964, 7: 552–558

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Berry W B N, Barker R M. Fossil bivalve shells indicate longer month and year in Cretaceous than present. Nature, 1968, 217: 938

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Pannella G. Paleontological evidence on the Earth rotational history since Early Cambrian. Science, 1972, 16: 212–237

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Scrutton C T. Periodic growth features in fossil organisms and the length of the day and month. In: Tidal Friction and the Earth’s Rotation. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1978. 154–196

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Knutson D W, Buddemeier R W, Smith S V. Coral chronometers: Seasonal growth bands in reef corals. Science, 1972, 177: 270–272

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Ma T Y H. On the seasonal change of growth in some Palaeozoic corals. Proc Imp Akad Tokyo, 1933, 9: 407–409

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Goreau T F. The physiology of skeleton formation in corals. I. A method for measuring the rate of calcium deposition by corals under different conditions. Biol Bull Mar Biol Lab, 1959, 116: 59–75

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Al-Horani F A, Tambutté É, Allemand D. Dark calcification and the daily rhythm of calcification in the scleractinian coral, Galaxea fascicularis. Coral Reefs, 2007, 26: 531–538

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Levy L, Appelbaum W, Leggat Y, et al. Light-responsive cryptochromes from a simple multicellular animal, the coral Acropora millepora. Science, 2007, 318: 467–470

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Moya A, Tambutté S, Bertucci A, et al. Study of calcification during a daily cycle of the coral Stylophora pistillata: Implications for ‘light-enhanced calcification’. J Experiment Bio, 2006, 209: 3413–3419

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Thomas G, Mehmet S. Growth dynamics of red abalone shell: A biomimetic model. Mater Sci Eng C, 2000, 11: 145–153

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Williams G E. Late Precambrian tidal rhythmites in South Australia and the history of the Earth’s rotation. J Geol Soc London, 1989, 146: 97–111

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Richardson C A, Peharda M, Kennedy H, et al. Age, growth rate and season of recruitment of Pinna nobillis (L) in the Croatian Adriatic determined from Mg:Ca and Sr:Ca shell profiles. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol, 2004, 299: 1–16

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Qu Y G, Xie G W, Gong Y M. Relationship between Earth-Sun- Moon 1000 Ma ago: Evidence from the stromatolites. Chinese Sci Bull, 2004, 49: 2083–2089

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Zhao Z Y, Zhou Y Q, Ji G S. The periodic growth increments of biological shells and the orbital parameters of Earth-Moon system. Environ Geol, 2007, 51: 1271–1277

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Williams G E, Jenkins J F, Walter M R. No heliotropism in Neoproterozoic columnar stromatolite growth, Amadeus Basin, central Australia: Geophysical implications. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol, 2007, 249: 80–89

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Wang X, Wang D X, Gao R Z, et al. Anthropogenic climate change revealed by coral gray values in the South China Sea. Chinese Sci Bull, 2010, 55: 1304–1310

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Chen T R, Yu K F, Shi Q, et al. Twenty-five years of change in scleractinian coral communities of Daya Bay (northern South China Sea) and its response to the 2008 AD extreme cold climate event. Chinese Sci Bull, 2009, 54: 2107–2117

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Shi Q, Zhao M X, Zhang Q M, et al. Estimate of carbonate production by scleractinian corals at Luhuitou fringing reef, Sanya, China. Chinese Sci Bull, 2009, 54: 696–705

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Lammerzah C L, Preuss O, Dittus H. Is the physics within the Solar system really understood? Astrophy Space Sci Libr, 2008, 349: 75–101

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Krasinsky G, Brumberg V. Secular increase of astronomical unit from analysis of the major planet motions, and its interpretation. Celest Mech Dynam Astron, 2004, 90: 267–288

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Standish E M. The astronomical unit now. In: Kurtz D W, ed. Proc. IAU Colloq. 196, Transits of Venus: New Views of the Solar System and Galaxy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 163

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Iorio L. Effect of sun and planet-bound dark matter on planet and satellite dynamics in the solar system. J Cosmol Astropart P, 2010, 1005: 018

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Kasting J F. Earth’s early atmosphere. Science, 1993, 259: 920–926

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Kawaguti S, Sakumoto D. The effects of light on the calcium deposition of corals. Bull Oceanogr Inst Taiwan, 1948, 4: 65–70

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Runcorn S K. Palaeontological data on the history of the earth-moon system. Phys Earth Planet In, 1979, 20: 1–5

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32

    Stephenson F R, Morrison L V. Long-term changes in the rotation of the Earth: 700 B.C. to A.D. Phil Trans R Soc Lond A, 1984, 313: 47–70

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Dickey J O, Bender P L, Faller J E, et al. Lunar laser ranging: A continuing legacy of the Apollo Program. Science, 1994, 265: 482–490

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34

    James C G, Zahnle W K J. Lunar nodal tide and distance to the moon during the Precambrian. Nature, 1986, 320: 600–602

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35

    Degl’Innocenti S, Fiorentini G, Raffelt G G, et al. Time-variation of Newton’s constant and the age of globular clusters. Astron Astrophys, 1996, 312: 345–352

    Google Scholar 

  36. 36

    Nikishina A M, Zieglerb P A, Abbottc D, et al. Permo-Triassic intraplate magmatism and rifting in Eurasia: Implications for mantle plumes and mantle dynamics. Tectonophysics, 2002, 351: 3–39

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37

    Spergel D N, Bean R, Doré O, et al. Three-year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) observations: Implications for cosmology. Astrophys J, 2007, 170: 377–408

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38

    Peacock J A. Cosmological Physics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 283

    Google Scholar 

  39. 39

    Krauss L M. Implications of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe age measurement for stellar evolution and dark energy. Astrophys J, 2003, 596: L1–L3

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40

    Lathe R. Early tides: Response to Varga et al. Icarus, 2006, 180: 277–280

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41

    Van Flandern T C. A determination of the rate of change of G. Mon Not R Astron Soc, 1975, 170: 333–342

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to WeiJia Zhang.

Electronic supplementary material

About this article

Cite this article

Zhang, W., Li, Z. & Lei, Y. Experimental measurement of growth patterns on fossil corals: Secular variation in ancient Earth-Sun distances. Chin. Sci. Bull. 55, 4010–4017 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11434-010-4197-x

Download citation


  • growth pattern
  • Earth’s semi-major axis
  • planetary Hubble expansion