‘The Great Dying’ Mystery Revealed Explaining How Volcano Eruption Wiped Out 90 Percent of Life

1,117

A study had found that destruction of the ozone layer may have contributed to the largest mass extinction in the history of Earth, known as the End-Permian Extinction. The event, also known as the Great Dying, occurred around 250 million years ago when a massive volcanic eruption in what is today the Russian province of Siberia sent nearly 90%  of all life right into extinction.

This volcanic activity was so powerful it created a massive area of volcanic rock, known as the Siberian Traps or flood basalts, from the 1.5million cubic kilometres of lava that settled on the ground. It had previously been thought that the so-called Permian Extinction was caused by the thick smog from eruptions that shrouded our planet, blocking the sun’s rays from reaching the Earth’s surface.

But this new study by a team of geo-scientists revealed that the chemicals released by the volcanic explosions were so toxic that they stripped the Earth of its ozone layer, leaving life exposed to the deadly UV rays of our solar neighbour. This would have massively increased the risk of cancer and caused plant life to die off – leading to the death of animals through lack of food and poor breathing conditions.

The researchers analyzed Siberian rocks from between the earth’s crust and mantle that date back to the time of the extinction. They found the rocks contained an extremely high concentration of deadly chemicals such as bromine, iodine, and chlorine. The toxins ate away at the ozone layer, leaving animals on our planet exposed to the deadly elements from space.

Life on Earth would be extremely different to how we know it at the time of the volcanic eruption 250 million years ago. Dinosaurs had not even come to be at this point. Instead, the Earth was dominated by reptiles – which were the precursors to the dinosaurs who came about 10 million years later. The planet would have been home to large herbivores known as captorhinomorphs, which measured between two and three-metres in length (7 to 10 feet) and were the first grouping of reptiles. The ocean was dominated by bony fish with fan-shaped fins and thick, heavy scales.

Study lead author, Michael Broadley said, “We concluded that the large reservoir of halogens that was stored in the Siberian lithosphere was sent into the earth’s atmosphere during the volcanic explosion, effectively destroying the ozone layer at the time and contributing to the mass extinction” and further added, “The scale of this extinction was so incredible that scientists have often wondered what made the Siberian Flood Basalts so much more deadly than other similar eruptions.”