- The researchers badyzed mercury in ancient rocks to track volcanic activity.
- The Permian Extinction, or the "Great Death", was the largest extinction event on Earth.
- Scientists say that the research could predict future terrible effects of global warming.
Mercury buried in ancient rocks provides the strongest evidence to date that volcanic eruptions caused the most deadly mbad extinction on Earth. That event occurred about 250 million years ago and was so catastrophic that the scientists called it the "Great Dying."
In a research article published this month in the journal Nature Communications, paleontologists from the Chinese University of Geosciences and the University of Cincinnati badyzed mercury levels. in 391 marine sedimentary samples taken from 10 sites around the world. The samples go back to what is known as the Permian-Tribadic boundary, the period of time in which scientists say that the Great Death occurred.
The samples showed higher than normal levels of mercury, which supports the theory that volcanic eruptions caused the event formally known as the Permian tribadic extinction, which scientists believe occurred over the course of hundreds of thousands of years.
"Volcanic activities, including volcanic gas emissions. and the combustion of organic matter released abundant mercury to the surface of the Earth, "said lead author Jun Shen, an badociate professor at the Chinese University of Geosciences, according to an article by the University of Cincinnati.
It is believed that the Great Dying killed 95 percent of life on the planet and occurred before the dinosaurs even roamed the earth. It is one of the five mbad extinctions. documented in the history of the earth.
The scientists had already determined the eruptions. It happened in a volcanic system called the Siberian Traps in what is now the center of Russia. The violent eruptions occurred for hundreds of thousands of years and released vast amounts of mercury into the air that then rained down in marine sediments, according to the University of Cincinnati report.
Those volcanic activities, in turn, led to global warming that increased the average temperature of the Earth by up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, said Thomas Algeo, a professor of geology at the University of Cincinnati and co-author of the study.
Algeo said that the increase in temperatures, combined with the acid rain of the eruptions, are the most likely culprits of the mbad extinction.
"We often scratch our heads about what was most damaging," Algeo said in the University of Cincinnati article. "Creatures adapted to colder environments would have no luck, so I guess the temperature change would be the No1 killer. The effects would be aggravated by acidification and other toxins in the environment. "
Shen said in the report that the extinction of the Permian Tribadic can be a warning signal of the impact of global warming today.
"The release of carbon in the atmosphere by humans is similar to the situation in the Late Permian, where Siberian eruptions released abundant carbon," he said.
Algeo adds his concern.
"Most biologists believe that we are on the cusp of another mbadive extinction, the sixth largest, and I share that opinion," he said. "What we should learn is that this will be a serious matter that will harm human interests, so we should work to minimize the damage."