Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million

Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago [BOOKS] ✸ Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago By Douglas H. Erwin – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk Some million years ago, the earth suffered the greatest biological crisis in its history Around % of all living species died out a global catastrophe far greater than the dinosaurs demise million ye Somemillion years ago, the earth suffered the greatest Life on Kindle Ò biological crisis in its history Around % of all living species died out a global catastrophe far greater than the dinosaurs demisemillion years ago How this happened remains Extinction: How Epub / a mystery But there are many competing theories Some blame huge volcanic eruptions that covered an area as large as the continental United States others argue for sudden changes in ocean levels and chemistry, including burps of How Life on MOBI ó methane gas and still others cite the impact of an extraterrestrial object, similar to what caused the dinosaurs extinction Extinction is a paleontological mystery story Here, the world s foremost authority on the subject provides a fascinating overview of the evidence for and against a whole host of hypotheses concerning this cataclysmic event that unfolded at the end of the Permian After setting the scene, Erwin introduces the suite of possible perpetrators and the types of evidence paleontologists seek He then unveils the actual evidence moving from China, where much of the best evidence is found to a look at extinction in the oceans to the extraordinary fossil animals of the Karoo Desert of South Africa Erwin reviews the evidence for each of the hypotheses before presenting his own view of what happened Although full recovery took tens of millions of years, this most massive of mass extinctions was a powerful creative force, setting the stage for the development of the world as we know it today Choice.


10 thoughts on “Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago

  1. Steve Van Slyke Steve Van Slyke says:

    This could easily have been a 5 star book for me if the author had done a little better job of keeping his audience in mind Clearly it is not written just for the academics as he often does a very good job of explaining geologic concepts in layman s terms At other times though, he leaves you straining to keep up One suggestion is to bookmark the pages with illustrations of various stretches of the geologic timescale, because he apparently assumes that once he has introduced them you have memo This could easily have been a 5 star book for me if the author had done a little better job of keeping his audience in mind Clearly it is not written just for the academics as he often does a very good job of explaining geologic concepts in layman s terms At other times though, he leaves you straining to keep up One suggestion is to bookmark the pages with illustrations of various stretches of the geologic timescale, because he apparently assumes that once he has introduced them you have memorized them Unless you have your eons, eras, periods, epochs, stages, etc memorized, you will find yourself getting lost at times when he uses the late part of an era or period synonymously with a stage.Nevertheless, this was a very enjoyable read and as intended by the author reads a bit like a whodunit mystery novel He introduces the potential killers in the early chapters and then follows with the evidence implicating each one commenting on the strength or weakness of the case Finally he gives his conclusion based on the evidence to date 2006.But there isHe then goes into the what is known about the recovery phase that followed the extinction It was interesting to learn that unlike the Cambrian radiation explosion , there was no rapid evolution of new and diverse species in the similar time span at the beginning of the Cambrian He offers interesting theories of why this was so and he compares it to the adaptive radiation of Darwin s finches in the Galapagos.Just recently there have been a couple of announcements of new research about the Permian mass extinction One addresses the reduced timeframe of the event and another adds additional evidence suggesting that one of the potential killers may belikely the culprit than previously suspected with the new research however, it seems that the author is likely right that it was not one culprit acting totally alone, butlikely a chain reaction in which one culprit catalyzed the actions of another, perhaps even several others As the author termed it, one of the best theories might be the Murder on the Orient Express theory.SPOILER Thus it may well be that extreme volcanism in the Siberian Traps made it possible for methane spewing bacteria to multiply at an abnormally high rate creating a greenhouse effect which destroyed plant life in the sea and on land leading to demise of both vegetarian and carnivorous animals around the globe The moral here is that if it was a sudden release of greenhouse gasses caused by bacteria, under the right conditions, it could happen again and we might be powerless to do anything about it deflecting an asteroid would not save us


  2. Emma Sea Emma Sea says:

    only after starting this did I realize it was published in 2006, and so doesn t have any of therecent research about likely causes of the Permian extinction, especially the large amount on anoxia and acidification So there s nothing wrong with the book I just decided to give it a miss.


  3. Claudia Putnam Claudia Putnam says:

    Whew, read this, will you, please The only reason I m not giving it five stars is that the book really needs to be rewritten It came out initially in 2005 I think, and was updated via a preface, not a thorough rewrite in 2015 There was a new breakthrough in the extinction timeline just a few weeks ago, even The worst part about the book only being new prefaced in which he noted a farrapid extinction and now it s REALLY rapid is that not only do you have to keep in mind throughout Whew, read this, will you, please The only reason I m not giving it five stars is that the book really needs to be rewritten It came out initially in 2005 I think, and was updated via a preface, not a thorough rewrite in 2015 There was a new breakthrough in the extinction timeline just a few weeks ago, even The worst part about the book only being new prefaced in which he noted a farrapid extinction and now it s REALLY rapid is that not only do you have to keep in mind throughout the new figures, you re also dealing with citations from the early 2000s and sometimes from the late 90s Come on That said, the read, given that it s what we have, by the what is probably the foremost expert on the Permian extinction, is worthwhile because he takes the time to delve into WHY the things most likely responsible for the planetary near death experience 252ish million years ago are in fact the culprits You can t, it turns out, say oh, there were huge amounts of volcanic output at around that time, so even though it seems obvious that this would lead to lots of carbon in the atmosphere and therefore a reduction of oxygen in the air and ocean, not to mention a lot of acid rain You have to prove that this would cause extinctionsbecause there have been some huge eruptions at other times that haven t killed everything else Same, believe it or not, with gigantic asteroid impacts, because there have been other asteroid impacts not at the end of the dinosaur age a different era from the one this book focuses on that haven t destroyed the planet And arguments that volcanism may have been at least partly responsible for killing the dinosaurs as well as 75% of life on earth are coming again to the fore So, Erwin goes into all that And it s carbon loading in the atmosphere along with a bunch of associated effects, it seems, but really, how they may have affected the food chain Disruptions in the food chain, along with a lack of diversity in the biotic system and bam, good bye to the world So, here we are today, loading the atmosphere with carbon and because we ve spread species around the world, and reduced diversityAre we in the middle of another extinction Well, many species have certainly gone extinct in the last, oh, 100,000 years or so We don t really know how many species we actually have on the planet, so it s hard to say If we re in the middle of a Permian level extinction, it s too late to stop it, so he says we might as well assume we re not and that we can reverse the current trend That is, stop putting carbon into the atmosphere or find some way to take it back out at current rates Because as I said in my recent reviews of other, related books by friends of Erwin s, it s not just climatologists who are worried about climate change, or this era of human participation in the history of life on earth What some people are calling the anthropocene as if we are already a layer in the dirt It s biologists, planetary scientists, evolutionary biologists, earth scientists, paleontologists, geologists, people with their hands in history going back millions of years BTW, Erwin is rud to have consulted with Cormac McCarthy on The Road


  4. Grrlscientist Grrlscientist says:

    Everyone knows that the dinosaurs went extinct after a giant meteorite smashed into earth 65 million years ago, creating a huge dent in the planet s surface just off the Yucatan peninsula, but did you know that there was an earlier, evendramatic, mass extinction event That apocalyptic event occurred approximately 252 million years ago, at the Permian Triassic PT boundary, and it wiped out nearly 95% of all living species on Earth But unlike the Cretaceous Tertiary KT mass extinction, Everyone knows that the dinosaurs went extinct after a giant meteorite smashed into earth 65 million years ago, creating a huge dent in the planet s surface just off the Yucatan peninsula, but did you know that there was an earlier, evendramatic, mass extinction event That apocalyptic event occurred approximately 252 million years ago, at the Permian Triassic PT boundary, and it wiped out nearly 95% of all living species on Earth But unlike the Cretaceous Tertiary KT mass extinction, the PT mass extinction cause s remain mysterious In his book, Extinction How Life Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago New Jersey Princeton University Press, 2006 , Smithsonian palaeontologist and curator, Douglas Erwin, investigates the current data and the resulting hypotheses that seek to explain what happened.This book starts with a peculiar confession, particularly coming from a palaeontologist Early Triassic rocks are boring It doesn t matter where you are, China, Europe or here in Utah there is a certain similarity to them, and a dreadful monotony A kind of austere beauty, but monotonous nonetheless Of course, after 95% of all marine life and at least 70% of all terrestrial life on the planet had been extinguished, it only stands to reason that the rock layers corresponding to those times after this event would be boring because they hold few, if any, fossils to fascinate scientists.After gaining the reader s attention with that unusual admission, Erwin then focuses on the reason these rocks are so boring by describing the nature of the end Permian mass extinction event that will be investigated throughout the book and providing a glimpse of the available evidence Chapter two, a cacophony of causes , enumerates a variety of causes for this mass extinction before describing the six major hypotheses for which there is at least some supporting data 1 an extraterrestrial impact of the same sort that caused the Cretaceous Tertiary mass extinction that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago 2 extensive volcanism that produced the Siberian flood basalts possibly triggered by an extraterrestrial impact , that radically changed the global climate and geochemistry 3 continental drift plate tectonics with the formation of Pangaea that caused a sharp reduction in biome types 4 extensive glaciation that caused a combination of global cooling and a drop in sea levels 5 a decrease in oxygen in shallow and deep seas due to one of several possible causes and 6 the Murder on the Orient Express hypothesis positing that a combination of several or all of the other already described events occurred nearly simultaneously, thereby causing this, the greatest extinction that the planet has ever known.The next five chapters are devoted to investigating each of these hypotheses and several alternate hypotheses, detailing the data that support them, and exploring the strengths and limitations of the methods used to obtain these data In these five chapters, the reader will become familiar with the patterns of extinction who lived, who died and what ecological or physiological characteristics do they share Erwin also discusses important evidence gathered from both terrestrial and marine sediments, and along the way, the reader will learn the significance of a variety of studies, including using ammonoids, conodonts and other ancient species to define the structure of the PT boundary the presence of a putative fungal spike in the early Triassic, soon after the PT boundary, also obtaining radiometric dates using zircons obtained from volcanic ash beds and the shifts in carbon isotope ratios, along with sulfur and strontium isotope data.Chapter eight, denouement , explores the intersections between all these data and investigates the possibility that there were multiple causes to the end Permian extinction Finally, the author names his favorite hypothesis for the PT mass extinction I won t reveal that here you ll just have to read the book to find out which it is but he is careful to state that he really does not know the answer, that the evidence is incomplete so far anddata could come to light that could change everything.Erwin then says that learning about what occurred after the PT mass extinction isscientifically compelling for him than understanding the cause of mass extinctions themselves In Resurrection and Recovery , the author describes patterns of biotic recovery, noting that early Triassic fossils were dominated by a few opportunistic weedy species and states that it tookthan 4 million years before there was a demonstrable increase in speciation in the fossil record He speculates that this long recovery phase could be due to the necessity of reconstructing entire ecosystems rather than simply repopulating empty habitats after this global disaster Erwin also discusses the curious abundance of Lazarus taxa taxa that appeared to go extinct, only to reappear much later in the fossil record after their post apocalyptic populations had built up to significant levels once .The last chapter of the book explores long term implications and modern day effects of mass extinctions within a broad context Erwin reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the end Permian extinction event probably did not significantly affect the long term outcome of evolutionary history Indeed, the author mentions that his colleagues think those taxonomic groups that dominate the oceans today were already expanding during the Permian, that the PT mass extinction simply accelerated that process But Erwin also goes on to say that labeling the current biodiversity crisis as the sixth extinction is to invite inappropriate comparisons to historic mass extinctions Our current biodiversity crisis is very different because so far, it is primarily an event where we are losing localized or specialized species rather than common, widespread species, as was the case in the mass extinctions However, we are not off the hook , so to speak, because Erwin cautions that biotic recoveries take far longer than the recorded history of Homo sapiens, and occasionally far longer than the entire recorded history of hominids Do we really want to cause an extinction that will take longer than our own evolutionary history to recover from This book is an engagingly written paleontological mystery, neatly summarizing the latest information that we have regarding the end Permian mass extinction It is extensively and meticulously researched and is filled with citations and explanatory material that will tantalize the interested reader Each chapter is carefully argued as it sifts through the available data in an even handed way I found the writing to be somewhat uneven in places but overall, it was engaging and generally accessible to the average reader, nicely reflecting the author s wit at times and focused on the science rather than the drama surrounding the science Further, this book doesthan simply offering an account of the latest knowledge surrounding this mysterious mass extinction, it does a great job revealing how scientists think about complicated issues and the evidence that supports differing hypotheses.NOTE Originally published at scienceblogs.com on 13 June 2006


  5. Ash Ash says:

    Deliberates the evidence for possible causes of the end Permian extinction and compares it towell known extinction events This book is actually quite interesting, now that I ve had time to process it While reading I felt bogged down with all the information it is probably as well organized as it could be, but I struggled to piece everything together and not get too confused with the jumps around the globe and between different hypotheses I particularly appreciated how after presenting Deliberates the evidence for possible causes of the end Permian extinction and compares it towell known extinction events This book is actually quite interesting, now that I ve had time to process it While reading I felt bogged down with all the information it is probably as well organized as it could be, but I struggled to piece everything together and not get too confused with the jumps around the globe and between different hypotheses I particularly appreciated how after presenting a theory he discussed how accepted tested the theory was ie mantle plumes aren t well understoond observed when my geology textbooks in school seemed to present them as documented facts Near the end, he briefly discusses whether or not the massive die off determined which species survived long term and eventually led to the current diversification of life or if the ones hardest hit by the destructive event s had already been in decline I wish this point would have been explored further, for I found it the most intriguing aspect of the topic


  6. Elentarri Elentarri says:

    Erwin provides us with an entertaining, informative and somewhat technical whodunit detective story, examining the culprits that may be responsible for the end Permian mass extinction The author examines the various geological and paleontological evidence for what happened, when and what effects this may have had and then tries to piece together which of several hypotheses are thelikely culprites of the extinction and which are just effects The six major hypotheses that show some su Erwin provides us with an entertaining, informative and somewhat technical whodunit detective story, examining the culprits that may be responsible for the end Permian mass extinction The author examines the various geological and paleontological evidence for what happened, when and what effects this may have had and then tries to piece together which of several hypotheses are thelikely culprites of the extinction and which are just effects The six major hypotheses that show some supporting data, and which Erwin focuses on, are as follows 1 an extraterrestrial impact of the some sort 2 extensive volcanism that produced the Siberian flood basalts possibly triggered by an extraterrestrial impact , that radically changed the global climate and geochemistry 3 continental drift plate tectonics with the formation of Pangaea that caused an extensive reduction in biome types 4 extensive glaciation that caused a combination of global cooling and a drop in sea levels 5 a decrease in oxygen in shallow and deep seas due to one of several possible causes and 6 the Murder on the Orient Express hypothesis suggesting that a combination of several or all of the other already described events occurred nearly simultaneouslyErwin very helpfully comments on the strenght or weaknesses of the various hypotheses, and finally provides his conclusion based on the evidence Erwin also takes a look at the recovery of organisms AFTER the extinction, which is something few authors do However, the book was originally published in 2006, so some of this information is outdated or been superseededby additional information Erwin does discuss the new findings in his 2015 preface, for an up to date examination of the end Pemian extinction Despite new research into this topic, it seems like the author s Murder on the Orient Express hypotheses, where a variety of factors are responsible for the mass extinction, still seems to be valid.Other useful books When Life Nearly Died The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time by Michael J Benton The Worst of Times How Life on Earth Survived Eighty Million Years of Extinctions by Paul B Wignall Life on a Young Planet The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth by Andrew H Knoll The Goldilocks Planet The Four Billion Year Story of Earth s Climate by Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams The Ends of the World Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past Apocalypses by Peter Brannen The Emerald Planet How Plants Changed Earth s History by David Beerling


  7. Richard Pierce Richard Pierce says:

    The author presents a well written book providing the known facts as of 2006 which he uses to develop the accepted theories which try to explain the Permian Triassic extinction But unfortunately, they are all theories which either lack enough evidence or have inconsistencies which make them questionable I read this book after reading Stephen Brusatte s The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs Thank goodness for that Brusatte did an excellent job of presenting paleological terms and this was essenti The author presents a well written book providing the known facts as of 2006 which he uses to develop the accepted theories which try to explain the Permian Triassic extinction But unfortunately, they are all theories which either lack enough evidence or have inconsistencies which make them questionable I read this book after reading Stephen Brusatte s The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs Thank goodness for that Brusatte did an excellent job of presenting paleological terms and this was essential to understanding this book This is not an easy read but it was interesting to learn how paleontologists work, investigate and develop theories With each passing year the developments in science mean this book could be quickly outdated However, it is well written and worth the time and effort to read, if you are interested in this subject I rated this book four star If I had a better knowledge of paleontology, I would be better able to determine if this book was as outstanding as I felt it was


  8. Hannah Hannah says:

    Brilliantly written book, I just wish I could have understoodof it A majority of the concepts are explained well, however there are points in the book where I became entirely lost For an academic, or even a self professed science geek, Erwin s language and graphs may go right over your head However, that doesn t mean you will walk away from this book without a greater understanding and appreciation for planet Earth.


  9. Tony Tony says:

    Very interesting look at the subject of the greatest extinction the planet has ever faced and a good look at the different theories and the pros and cons of each It would be interesting to see what the current state of thinking is with this as a background As an introduction it is up there with the best.


  10. Annette Annette says:

    2.5 Average, confusing at points and his argument could be contradictory, but it still offered a good overview of Permian extinction


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