It Took 10 Million Years For The Earth To Recover From The Greatest Mass Extinction
Scientists have discovered that it took approximately 10 million years for the Earth to recover from the greatest mass extinction that ever took place.
Sometime around 250 million years ago almost 90% of the biological life on Earth was wiped out.
"It is hard to imagine how so much of life could have been killed, but there is no doubt from some of the fantastic rock sections in China and elsewhere round the world that this was the biggest crisis ever faced by life," said one of the co-authors of the paper, Dr Zhong-Qiang Chen from the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan.
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The end-Permian crisis, the most intense biological extinction, was brought on by numerous environmental shocks. These included acid rain, global warming, ocean acidification, and ocean anoxia.
The reason that the recovery took 10 million years was that the extinction was so severe and unprecedented in its nature and because the environmental shocks lasted for some time. They came in waves over the next five to six million years.
Professor Benton, Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Bristol, said: "Life seemed to be getting back to normal when another crisis hit and set it back again. The carbon crises were repeated many times, and then finally conditions became normal again after five million years or so."
Some creatures did begin to rebuild their species, but their efforts were largely thwarted by the fact that permanent ecosystems did not really exist thanks to the volatile environment. Eventually, when the environment calmed, animals such as crabs, lobsters, and other marine animals built up the first versions of the complex ecosystems of today.
Despite the severity of the extinction, Professor Benton believes that it had its benefits as well.
"We often see mass extinctions as entirely negative but in this most devastating case, life did recover, after many millions of years, and new groups emerged. The event had re-set evolution. However, the causes of the killing -- global warming, acid rain, ocean acidification -- sound eerily familiar to us today. Perhaps we can learn something from these ancient events."