Took 10 Million Years for Life on Earth to ‘Re-set’ After Mass Extinction

Posted May 29th, 2012 at 10:45 pm (UTC+0)
11 comments

A catastrophic event such as increased volcanism may have contributed to massive extinction event (Photo: National Park Service)

A catastrophic event such as increased volcanism may have contributed to massive extinction event (Photo: National Park Service)

More than 250 million years ago, most life on Earth was wiped out by a catastrophic event called the Permian–Triassic extinction. New research suggests it took our planet 10 million years to recover from what is now known as “The Great Dying.”

The Great Dying took place millions of years earlier than the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction, which killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. It was also much more devastating, destroying 90 percent of all plants and animals.

Scientists theorize a “perfect storm” of conditions – global-warming, acid rain, ocean acidification and ocean anoxia (loss of oxygen) – followed by a catastrophic event such as increased volcanism, contributed to Earth’s most dramatic and devastating biological crisis.

For some time now, they’ve debated how quickly life on Earth bounced back from this mass extinction. A new article in Nature Geoscience puts that number at 10 million years.

Artist rendering of the "Great Dying" in which 90% of all marine species are thought to have perished. (Image: Lunar and Planetary Institute)

Artist rendering of The Great Dying in which 90 percent of all marine species are thought to have perished. (Image: Lunar and Planetary Institute)

So why did it take our planet so long to recover from this devastating loss of life? Why didn’t life just “bounce back?”

The sheer intensity of this crisis, coupled with the bleak conditions which remained on Earth after that first devastating surge of extinction, are the reasons for the delay, according to the report authors.

These bleak conditions continued, in bursts, for some five-to-six million years after the initial calamity, triggering repeated environmental crises.

“Life seemed to be getting back to normal when another crisis hit and set it back again,” said Michael Benton, one of the report authors who is a professor at England’s University of Bristol. “The carbon crises were repeated many times and then, finally, conditions became normal again after five million years or so.”

Map of the world around the time of the Great Dying (Image: Dr. Ron Blakey via Wikimedia Commons)

Map of the world around the time of the Great Dying (Image: Dr. Ron Blakey via Wikimedia Commons)

While certain groups of marine and land animals recovered quickly to a certain point, they suffered continual setbacks with each of these bursts of dire conditions following the initial crisis because, according to the researchers, their permanent ecosystems were not firmly established.

But after the waves of environmental devastation began to wane, not only did life return to Earth, but much more complex ecosystems were formed, allowing for much more sophisticated life forms which eventually led to human life.

“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,” Benton said. “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.”

11 Responses to “Took 10 Million Years for Life on Earth to ‘Re-set’ After Mass Extinction”

  1. [...] animals surviving the …'Great Dying' Recovery Took 10 Million YearsDiscovery NewsTook 10 Million Years for Life on Earth to 'Re-set' After Mass ExtinctionVoice of America (blog)Earth took 10 million years to recover from mass extinctionTG [...]

  2. Eaglekiss says:

    @The author, please kindly explain: From your article, I undertand that extinction of lives – animals and plants – has happened several times in the past – at 250 millions years ago, at 65 millions years ago and more. The causes were many, some of which were global warming, acid rains and ocean accidification. What caused acid rains and ocean acidification before humans appeared? If these causes are not human-made, then whatever we do, what will be will be! Is that so? I cannot understand what you meant by “…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.”

  3. And one of these epochs, they’ll get it right!

    • another anonymous writer says:

      Time and time again, the earth gets sick and tired of humans or some kind of human, witness the gears in solid rock or things buried deep in the earth that should not be there… I think Mother Earth decides every once in a while to wipe out everything and start over… but the kicker is we keep coming to the same place.. war, pestilence, the abuse of the earth, also remember oil is abiotic, oil keeps being made (like our own blood and marrow) and this has been known for a long long time… The earth is Alive my friends.. we need to treat her well, but as I see it she is getting ready to do this again.. upheavel of life, the destruction of everything here.. To let you know I am not a Climate Changer and yes this article points out some things that Climate Changers will hate… but this is a regular course for Mother Earth, and the TEPCO things is maybe making it go along faster….

  4. wolf says:

    Good question, Eagle.

  5. Kooky WingNut says:

    Is it just me, or does it make you wonder about Atlantis? We know carbon dating is inaccurate. maybe we kept destroying the world repeatedly and sent us back to the stone age?
    Then also, I wonder how they “Know” what the Earth looked like 250 million years ago. Its all speculation.

  6. Kooky WingNut says:

    ” Perhaps we can learn something from these ancient events.”

    riiiiiight

  7. Bonnie says:

    Certainly, I’m NOT blaming the man -in-the street, because as we know:

    all the endeavors of We THE People, to preserve/save this Planet, are quickly crushed by tptb….and in fact, THEY are responsible for the problems we’re in today.

    But, could it be, that there were civilizations before “official” history? And that tptb in those times, were responsible for the devastations?

  8. R. Schulz says:

    All the “causes” listed above are actually the results of world cataclysms. We are due
    to have another one six months from now. The magnetic poles of the Earth are already shifting as our solar system approaches the Galactic ecliptic plane. When we cross this plane the polarity of the galacxy hemisphere will reverse and the Sun & planets will also change their orientation. According to Hapgood, there have been 242 magnetic pole shifts in the last million years. Each shift has produced major damage to Earth. For unknown reasons the damage from each pole shift is different. The last
    one, in 9791BC, was the worst in a million years and reduced the human population to about 8,000 indivicuals.

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