Whatever Wednesday – Mass Extinction and Biology?

Let’s have a happy science talk today. Because science and stories go hand-in-hand in my mind. Topic? The end-Permian mass extinction!

This particular mass extinction (yes there have been many over the millennia on Earth) occurred 250 million years ago and killed 90% of all life on the planet. At that point, there was already a great deal of diversity on Earth. We had plants, sea creatures, insects, amphibians, and reptiles all roaming around doing whatever it is animals did way back then (they didn’t have internet so…. I guess they just walked around in circles or something..?) Then all of a sudden… BAM! Right in the middle of Mr. Lizard’s 586284th circle walk, The Great Something happened. Scientists never really had a good idea of what this Something was. It was theorized to be an asteroid or mass volcanic activity or alien invasion… Most respected scientists only mentioned that last one in the safety of their homes, but they all secretly thought it was true…

Recently, scientists have developed a new theory and gathered some supporting data that seems to make a lot of sense. It turns out biology could be the instigator. New data supports a theory that volcanic eruptions opened cracks in the Earth that gave methane-producing microbes access to large amounts of nickel and SOMETHING ELSE. This resulted in a ridiculous overdose of carbon monoxide and CO2 in the oceans and atmosphere. I’m not talking about a couple hundred or thousand ppm concentration in the atmosphere. This was literally replacing all oxygen with carbon dioxide. Obviously, that’s not exactly compatible with most life…

Why do we care? Well for one, it’s pretty amazing and cool that little itty bitty microbes almost single-handedly destroyed all life on Earth. Secondly, ARE YOU KIDDING?! THAT’S FREAKING TERRIFYING!!! (Which makes it an excellent writing topic!) Thirdly, it’s good to know that things like that are possible so we are more prepared when something similar eventually happens in the future. It puts thing in perspective about how small and insignificant certain creatures may seem, they can definitely have a huge impact. The world is large and complex, I feel like most of the time we don’t really know what’s going on.

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