UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
Home
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Webcasts
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
I tried to do some research on what cause the different mass extinctions. I know there are different theories but I only found concrete info on the 65 mya extinction. What was the cause of the 245mya mass extinction? Thanks
Answer 1:

The extinction that occurred 245 million years ago was in the late Permian period. The causes are thought to be fluctuations in sea-level, a change in the salinity of the ocean, and volcanic activity. This following website has a lot of information about the 6 mass extinctions in earth's history.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/darwin/exfiles/massintro.htm

Answer 2:

As you've probably noticed while doing your research, there are many hypotheses about why mass extinctions occur.
Just a side note: All the divisions of the geologic time scale are based on extinction events determined by the disappearance of certain fossils from rocks of a given age.At the boundary between the Permian and Triassic (245 my), something happened that caused the extinction of about 95% of all marine invertebrates and 70% of terrestrial vertebrates. Here are two of the most widely accepted hypotheses for what happened:
1. Formation of the supercontinent Pangea -
The joining of multiple continents into one continent would decrease the amount of shallow marine shelf environment available as habitat. Most marine organisms live in shallow environments. In addition, the center of the supercontinent was probably dry and hot, providing miserable habitat for terrestrial animals.
2. Climate change and carbon dioxide buildup
- This hypothesis is also related to Pangea. The idea is that the formation of Pangea drastically changed ocean circulation patterns so that circulation became slow and the oceans were poorly mixed (i.e., deep water stays in the depths instead of upwelling). Photosynthetic marine organisms like phytoplankton sink to the bottom of the ocean when they die, and aerobic bacteria at the bottom of the ocean consume them, producing carbon dioxide. In the late Permian, this carbon dioxide was stuck on the bottom of the ocean instead of being driven to the surface and released to the atmosphere. The atmosphere, therefore,became depleted in carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that helps keep the atmosphere warm, and when it was depleted, the climate cooled. Climatic cooling led to glaciation, which caused the ocean surface temperatures to decrease. This led to sinking of ocean surface water because the colder surface water was denser than the underlying, warmer water. As the oceans began to mix, all that carbon dioxide trapped at the bottom was released into the atmosphere (think of a big carbon dioxide belch). Oxygen-breathing creatures on land and in the sea were suffocated by the huge amount of carbon dioxide released.


Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use