Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Mass extinction happened fast: study
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 10, 2014

Something wiped out nearly all life on Earth more than 250 million years ago, and whatever unleashed this mass die-off acted much faster than previously thought, scientists said Monday.

Based on an analysis of rocks in China, the end-Permian extinction occurred over the course of 60,000 years, give or take 48,000, researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That is about 10 times faster than scientists believed up until now and a blink of an eye in geological terms.

"It is clear that whatever triggered extinction must have acted very quickly," said lead author Seth Burgess, a graduate student in earth science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The extinction killed off 96 percent of life on Earth.

Multiple theories about its origin exist, top among them that a string of massive volcanic eruptions spewed huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, acidifying the oceans and causing intense global warming.

The latest study is based on an analysis of zircon crystals in a geological formation in Meishan, China.

Fossils discovered in this region have led researchers to believe the rocks hold the secret to the end of the Permian and the beginning of the Triassic period, which is when dinosaurs and mammals began to appear.

Using the latest scientific techniques, researchers have been able to refine their estimates made in 2011, when they reported that the mass extinction happened in less than 200,000 years.

A closer examination of the uranium and lead in samples from volcanic ash beds suggests the deaths of nearly every living plant and creature on Earth could have happened in as little as 12,000 years.

"We've got the extinction nailed in absolute time and duration," said co-author Sam Bowring, professor of earth and planetary sciences at MIT.

Together with colleagues from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, the team found that 10,000 years before the die-off, the oceans experienced a pulse of light carbon, reflecting the mass outpouring of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The oceans would have undergone dramatic acidification and seen sea temperatures rise by 10 degrees C or more, a heat that would have killed most marine life.

Burgess said whatever happened, it moved "fast enough to destabilize the biosphere before the majority of plant and animal life had time to adapt in an effort to survive."

Researchers are now analyzing rock samples from China to those from the Siberian Traps in Russia to see how the eruptions' timelines compare.

"We've refined our approach, and now we have higher accuracy and precision," said Bowring. "You can think of it as slowly spiraling in toward the truth."


Related Links
Explore The Early Earth at

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Strange marine mammals of ancient North Pacific revealed
Dunedin, New Zealand (SPX) Feb 06, 2014
The pre-Ice Age marine mammal community of the North Pacific formed a strangely eclectic scene, research by a Geology PhD student at New Zealand's University of Otago reveals. Studying hundreds of fossil bones and teeth he excavated from the San Francisco Bay Area's Purisima Formation, Robert Boessenecker has put together a record of 21 marine mammal species including dwarf baleen whales, ... read more

NASA bets on private companies to exploit moon's resources

Astrobotic Begins Testing at Masten Space Systems

NASA Extends Moon Exploring Satellite Mission

NASA's LRO Snaps a Picture of NASA's LADEE Spacecraft

Mars rover successfully negotiates risky move over sand dune

MAVEN on Track to Carry Out its Science Mission

NASA Mars Orbiter Examines Dramatic New Crater

Russia proposes water-hunting instrument for future Mars rover

Tech products can turn uncool when they become too popular

New scientific field looks at the big picture

Future interplanetary spacecraft to be equipped with 'plantations'

Russian Space Farmers Harvest Wheat, Peas and Greens

Moon plays trick on Jade Rabbit

Waiting for Yutu

'Goodnight, humans': Says Yutu As The Sun Sets

Extra Time for Tiangong

Russian Resupply Spacecraft Begins Expedited Flight to Station

NASA Selects Physical Science Research Proposals for the ISS

Russian Cargo Craft Departure Clears Way for Next Delivery

NASA Extends Reliance on Russian Spacecraft Until 2018

58th successful launch in a row of Ariane 5

The go-ahead is given for Arianespace's February 6 flight with Ariane 5

SpaceX's next cargo mission to space station is Mar 16

Both payloads for Arianespace's next Ariane 5 flight are mated to the launcher

Kepler Finds a Very Wobbly Planet

One planet, two stars: new research shows how circumbinary planets form

First Weather Map of Brown Dwarf

NASA-Sponsored 'Disk Detective' Lets Public Search for New Planetary Nurseries

Scientists use 'voting' and 'penalties' to overcome quantum errors

China gold consumption leaps 41% in 2013

Theorists predict new forms of exotic insulating materials

MDA announces Canada's DND Sapphire satellite completes commissioning

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement