The greatest mass extinction of all time lasted at least ten times longer on land than in the ocean

This means that mass extinction can be prolonged at different times depending on its geographical location and environment.

About 252 million years ago, everything on our planet went wrong. Numerous lava-breathing volcanoes have released huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, leading to catastrophic climate change. No less than 95 percent of all existing species have been accidentally wiped off the planet. Scientists describe this mass extinction, which occurred at the edge of the Permian, as the largest ever. In the meantime, we are learning more and more about this catastrophic event in the distant past of our Earth. And in a new study, the researchers made another surprising discovery.

Empty sea
Meanwhile, mainly due to well-preserved fossils, we know that during the mass extinction of the Permian Triassic, more than 95 percent of species living in the ocean became extinct in less than 100,000 years. While 100,000 years may seem like a long time, geologically it’s really fast. During this period, almost all life, which existed for more than 3,800,000,000 years, died out. Proportionally, this equates to the extinction of 95 percent of marine life in just 14 minutes a year.

Until now, because all marine life has become extinct for such a short time, it has been assumed that life on land is also disappearing rapidly. “Scientists have for years used the extinction of the oceans as a touchstone for similar events on land,” said researcher Pia Viglietti in an interview with On the one hand, it is understandable. The sea is home to more complete fossil records. And so here scientists were looking for clues to what might have happened on earth.

Ten times longer
However, a new study now proves that this method is contrary to reality. For example, scientists have concluded that while marine life was rapidly dying out, it was extending on land for much longer. “What is interesting about our findings is that it shows that the dynamics of extinction were very different between the sea and the land,” says Viglietti. By examining 588 four-legged fossil animals – including the remains of lystrosaurs – that lived in South Africa at the time of the mass extinction, the researchers found that the mass extinction on earth must have lasted at least ten times longer. If we take the earlier equation, in which we stated that 95 percent of marine life died proportionally in 14 minutes, all terrestrial life would be erased from Earth in two hours and twenty minutes.

More about lystrosaurus
Lystrosaurus was a herbivorous animal that, depending on the species, could compete with anything from a small dog to a cow. The strange animal, which certainly did not win the price of beauty, was equipped with a beak and tusks. Interestingly, the Lystrosaurs now seem to have prospered at a time when most other living beings were fighting. In fact, the study shows that just before the largest mass extinction to date, the number has indeed increased. This means that the animal was able to thrive under conditions to which other species died. And this sheds a whole new light on the origins of this so-called “catastrophic type,” which more or less spread during the Triassic.

The big question, of course, is why the mass extinction on land was much slower. The reason is not yet entirely clear, although Viglietti has suspicions. “Changes in the Earth’s climate have been cumulative,” he says. “Over time, it added up.” Ecosystems have been slowly disturbed. And then came the point where everything collapsed. One reason for the discrepancy may be that the oceans can absorb chemical changes and stabilize to some extent. “

The study emphasizes that we cannot simply reconcile events in the ocean with events on earth. “The results emphasize that we must first understand how mass extinction occurs in specific places before we generalize the event as a whole,” Viglietti said. “Mass extinctions have different effects and can last for different periods of time, depending on geographical location and environment.” This not only gives us a better understanding of the rise of dinosaurs, but also gives us a better view of the mass extinction that the Earth is currently facing with grief.

According to Viglietti, there are some similarities between the mass extinction of the Permian and the Triassic and the approaching current version. “Towards the end of the Permian, we also saw increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide,” he says. “But the big difference is that it’s happening much faster now.” Scientists have shown that the rate of extinction of the species and the levels of CO that we measure in the atmosphere today are the same as during the Permian mass extinction. We have only achieved this in just 200 years, while in Perm it has taken at least a million years. It shows that it is completely unsustainable what we are doing with our planet at the moment. “

The findings also show that biodiversity is not a certainty. “Due to the current disruption, it will be short,” says Viglietti. “Then it takes millions of years for him to recover.” So if we lose our current biodiversity, it will not be fixed in our lifetime. It can then also have gradual effects on the health and longevity of us as species. “However, current studies and fossil records give us an idea of ​​what massive biodiversity crises look like and how they may develop. “Studies like this show what our company should focus on,” Viglietti concludes.

Did you know…

… The mass extinction of the Perm-Triassic also led to a kind of biological weapons race? And this led to the emergence of warm-blooded mammals and birds. How exactly is it? Read it here!

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