extinction News

Are mass extinctions driven by mineral deficiency?

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There’s been a lot of ink lately around mass extinctions (maybe it’s the upcoming climate talks?)

Further to the recent call for a rethink of the mass extinction 250 million years ago and the hypothesis that they happen regularly due to catastrophic extraterrestrial events, we now encounter researchers who think that most of them wree caused by mineral deficiencies.

From New Scientist:

A new theory suggests most of Earth’s mass extinction events could have been caused by a lack of essential trace elements in the world’s oceans, causing fatal deficiencies in marine animals, from plankton to reptiles.

“It’s a complex scenario,” says John Long from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. He says there are probably a lot of causes conspiring to drive these mass extinctions. But his latest work suggests fluctuations in essential minerals in the ocean could be an important, and so-far completely unexplored, cause.

The principal reason these causes have been unexplored is the widespread belief, popularized by Darwin, that nature is “hourly” adding up the deficiencies in life forms, subtracting what is bad, leaving what is good.

Comparatively recently (and none too soon), attention has refocused on changes in ecology.

Earlier this year, researchers discovered that periods when the ocean had high levels of trace elements – like zinc, copper, manganese and selenium – seemed to overlap with periods of high productivity, including the Cambrian explosion, when most groups of living animals first appeared. More.

If we can keep the eco-crackpots* at bay, we might learn something useful.

*Ecologies naturally self-balance, with surprisingly little requirement for eco end-of-all-things-at-hand doomsaying. It’s a question of how large and varied the biomass will be, and of what type.

Note: If you ant to become extinct, try Will Cuppy

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