Earth’s Largest Extinction Event First Wiped Out Plant Life

If you went back in time some 525 million years ago, you’d come across one of the greatest—if not THE Greatestmass extinction events in the history of planet Earth.

The mass extinction is thought to have wiped out as much as 90 percent of all living species on Earth.

There are a number of theories that try and explain what exactly caused the mass extinction.

(MattHPhotos / Pixabay)

Some scientists believe the cause what the collision of a massive asteroid, while others argue that a new methane-producing-bacteria created so much gas, it caused all other life to become extinct.

However, Scientists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln believe there was another reason.

They say that 252 million years ago, our planet’s continental crust mashed into the supercontinent called Pangaea, and volcanoes in modern-day Siberia exploded as carbon and methane were spewed into the atmosphere.

In total, it is estimated that this mass extinction eradicated as much as ninety-six percent of marine life and seventy percent of land-based vertebrates — causing the largest extinction event in Earth’s history.

And now, scientists believe they’ve found a clue detail about this ancient apocalypse that could help us understand future mass extinctions.

Scientists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have discovered that the first species to ‘go’ during the ancient cataclysmic event were plants species.

Scientists found that a byproduct of the eruption may have driven Australian plant life to extinction approximately 400,000 years before most marine species perished.

This could tell us a lot about future events.

If plant life on Earth disappears, humans would have no chance of surviving.

“That’s big news,” explained lead author Christopher Fielding, professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences. “People have hinted at that, but nobody’s previously pinned it down. Now we have a timeline.”

The cause of plants going first in the mass extinction has been linked to nickel.

The scientists believe that as volcanic eruptions took place, nickel was turned into aerosol drifting thousands, and thousands of miles away, and eventually descending over plant life, poisoning it.

They say that the phenomenon triggered a number of different events, like a domino effect.

Herbivores could not survive due to the lack of plants, carnivores could not survive due to a lack of herbivores, and toxic sediment eventually flushed into the oceans already damaged from rising carbon dioxide, acidification, and temperatures.

“Looking back at these events in Earth’s history is useful because it lets us see what’s possible,” explained experts.

“How has the Earth’s system been perturbed in the past? What happened where? How fast were the changes? It gives us a foundation to work from – a context for what’s happening now.”

Nature Communications
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
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