Researchers have been able to link an oxygen event 250 million years ago to Earth's largest extinction event.
The largest extinction in Earth's history, where 96% of the planet's marine life and 70% of the land animals died, has been linked to an oxygen event. The largest extinction event to ever happen on Earth marked the ending of the Permian period 250 million years ago, and now according to a new study published in Nature Geoscience by researchers from Florida State University (FSU), a sudden rise and then a drop in the ocean's oxygen levels coincided with the mass extinction event.
Sean Newby, the lead author on the study and FSU graduate research assistant, said, "There's previous work that's been done that shows the environment becoming less oxygenated leading into the extinction event, but it has been hypothesized as a gradual change. We were surprised to see this really rapid oxygenation event coinciding with the start of the extinction and then a return to reducing conditions."
Researchers already knew that the ocean's oxygen content was decreasing, but what was the new finding was the sudden spike in oxygen levels. So, what caused the sudden spike? Researchers can confirm anything as of yet, but speculation is pointing to several hundred years of volcanic eruptions that caused the spike, and then as the eruptions slowed, the ocean's oxygen levels crashed.
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