Two hundred and fifty-two million years ago, a series of Siberian volcanoes erupted and sent the Earth into the greatest mass extinction of all time. As a result of this mass extinction, known as the Permo-Triassic Mass Extinction, billions of tons of carbon were propelled into the atmosphere, radically altering the Earth’s climate. Yet, some animals thrived in the aftermath and scientists now know why.
In a new study published in Scientific Reports, a team of international paleontologists, including postdoctoral scholar Adam Huttenlocker of the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah, demonstrate that ancient mammal relatives known as therapsids were suited to the drastic climate change by having shorter life expectancies and would have had a better chance of success by breeding at younger ages than their predecessors.
Maybe, but then the story goes off a cliff, catching up with the current a-pop-alypse:
“Although it’s hard to see the effects in our daily lives, there is substantial evidence that we are in the middle of a sixth mass extinction right now. It has been predicted that half of mammal species could become extinct by the end of the next century if present patterns continue; that’s more than 1,000 times greater than previous estimates of natural extinctions, a trend not seen since the End-Permian or End-Cretaceous extinctions,” said Huttenlocker. More. Paper. (public access)
If it were anything like the Permian extinction, we wouldn’t be here reading about it.
See also: Is the Sixth Great Extinction a big myth?