Researchers pinpoint date and rate of Earth's most extreme extinction
It's well known that Earth's most severe mass extinction occurred about 250 million years ago. What's not well known is the specific time when the extinctions occurred. A team of researchers from North America and China have published a paper in Science which explicitly provides the date and rate of extinction. "This is the first paper to provide rates of such massive extinction," says Dr. Charles Henderson, professor in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Calgary and co-author of the paper: Calibrating the end-Permian mass extinction. "Our information narrows down the possibilities of what triggered the massive extinction and any potential kill mechanism must coincide with this time."
About 95 percent of marine life and 70 percent of terrestrial life became extinct during what is known as the end-Permian, a time when continents were all one land mass called Pangea. The environment ranged from desert to lush forest. Four-limbed vertebrates were becoming diverse and among them were primitive amphibians, reptiles and a group that would, one day, include mammals.
Through the analysis of various types of dating techniques on well-preserved sedimentary sections from South China to Tibet, researchers determined that the mass extinction peaked about 252.28 million years ago and lasted less than 200,000 years, with most of the extinction lasting about 20,000 years.
"These dates are important as it will allow us to understand the physical and biological changes that took place," says Henderson. "We do not discuss modern climate change, but obviously global warming is a biodiversity concern today. The geologic record tells us that 'change' happens all the time, and from this great extinction life did recover." There is ongoing debate over whether the death of both marine and terrestrial life coincided, as well as over kill mechanisms, which may include rapid global warming, hypercapnia (a condition where there is too much CO2 in the blood stream), continental aridity and massive wildfires. The conclusion of this study says extinctions of most marine and terrestrial life took place at the same time. And the trigger, as suggested by these researchers and others, was the massive release of CO2 from volcanic flows known as the Siberian traps, now found in northern Russia.
Henderson's conodont research was integrated with other data to establish the study's findings. Conodonts are extinct, soft-bodied eel-like creatures with numerous tiny teeth that provide critical information on hydrocarbon deposits to global extinctions.
Source: University of Calgary
- Has the Earth's sixth mass extinction already arrived?Wed, 2 Mar 2011, 13:39:25 EST
- New findings show a quick rebound from marine mass extinction eventFri, 2 Oct 2009, 11:54:33 EDT
- Extinction runs in the familyThu, 6 Aug 2009, 15:37:48 EDT
- Caltech geobiologists uncover links between ancient climate change and mass extinctionThu, 27 Jan 2011, 14:54:20 EST
- New technique unlocks secrets of ancient oceanTue, 11 Oct 2011, 13:35:27 EDT
- Researchers pinpoint date and rate of Earth's most extreme extinctionfrom Science CentricFri, 18 Nov 2011, 12:30:46 EST
- Timeline of a mass extinction: New evidence points to rapid collapse of Earth`s species 252 million years agofrom PhysorgFri, 18 Nov 2011, 9:30:49 EST
- Timeline of a mass extinctionfrom MIT ResearchFri, 18 Nov 2011, 5:30:16 EST
- Date and rate of Earth's most extreme extinction pinpointed: Results stem from largest ever examination of fossil marine speciesfrom Science DailyThu, 17 Nov 2011, 21:30:20 EST
- Massive extinction linked to ancient Siberian blastfrom CBC: Technology & ScienceThu, 17 Nov 2011, 21:00:11 EST
- Researchers pinpoint date and rate of Earth's most extreme extinctionfrom PhysorgThu, 17 Nov 2011, 14:20:37 EST
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Even with defects, graphene is strongest material in the world
- Detection of the cosmic gamma ray horizon: Measures all the light in the universe since the Big Bang
- Genetic engineering alters mosquitoes' sense of smell
- Allosaurus fed more like a falcon than a crocodile, new study finds
- 'Popcorn' particle pathways promise better lithium-ion batteries