There have been five major mass extinction events since life developed on Earth, for approximately 600 million years. This is what we have come to know so far. The most popular one among these five events took place 65 million years ago and it led to the extinction of dinosaurs. However, it is not the most severe one.
The research conducted by Syracuse University focuses on the most severe mass extinction event that occurred about 252 million years ago with 95% of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial species becoming extinct, and it suggests a new argument for the causes of such mass extinction events.
According to the findings of the research conducted by James Muirhead, Seth Burgess and Samuel Bowring, the unexpected formation of igneous rocks is responsible for a set of successive events that eventually led to the mass extinction event and the end of Permian geological period.
Volcanic eruptions or asteroids hitting Earth are usually held responsible for mass extinction events. “While reexamining the timing of and the relations between magma movements, climate change and the mass extinction event, we developed a model showing the triggers of the mass extinction event that ended the Permian period.”, says Seth Burgess. The model relies upon up-to-date and high definition data.
Igneous rocks in Siberia, the focal center of the research, cover an area larger than 880 thousand square kilometers; this area has been volcanically active for almost one million years.
According to the model, extreme heat generated in the formation of igneous rocks triggers the mass extinction.
Heat in igneous rocks initiates a set of successive events by leading to the transformation of gas-rich residues followed by a vast release of greenhouse gas. It is important to underline the words “greenhouse gas” and “followed”. I wonder if there is any need to mention global warming. “Our model takes us to the starting point of the mass extinction triggered by igneous rock settlements. This is one of the most critical turning points in the evolution of life on Earth.”, explains James Muirhead.
Mass extinction events may last for 10 thousand years, but from a geological perspective it is just a blink of an eye. Still, their effects on life today continue.
- 1. https://news.syr.edu/2017/07/geologist-offers-new-clues-to-cause-of-worlds-greatest-extinction/
- 2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-00083-9