Life has thrived on Earth for a long time, but there were some bumps on the road. Severe extinction events have affected many species in time, forcing life to adapt and evolve at a fast pace.
The largest mass extinction event in the history of Earth took place more than 252 million years ago, between the end of the Permian Epoch and the start of the Triassic epoch. It is estimated that up to 75% of all land-based life and 95% of all marine life went extinct.
Tracking down the culprit
Some researchers have argued that large-scale volcanic events that took place in Siberia and the release of massive amounts of methane from the sea may have played a critical role in the Permian-Triassic extinction. However, many details have remained elusive.
A team of researchers resorted to an unusual data source to learn more information as they surveyed brachiopods fossils. Brachiopod fossils in great condition had been recovered from the Alps, and they formed more than 252 million years ago. Due to the timeframe when they for, they offer interesting information about the conditions before and at the start of the extinction event.
The fossils retained a large number of isotopes that allowed researchers to observe the way in which pH values were altered more than 252 million years ago. There is a close link between the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the pH level.
According to the results, volcanic events led to the release of a large amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, paving the way for accelerated warming and ocean acidification, which affected sea life. As the global temperatures continue to rise at a fast pace, land-based life was also affected.
The study has been well-received across the scientific community, and it has been published in a scientific journal.