Over the many years of Earth’s existence there has been 5 mass extinctions at the end of each period, (Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Triassic, and Cretaceous). Of these extinctions, the Permian Extinction wiped out an astounding 96% of the species living on Earth. This event was named the “Great Dying” because more species died in this period then any other. Even though many years have passed, geologists and paleontologists still have different ideas about how this dramatic extinction happened.
It is difficult to be certain exactly what caused this huge extinction since scientists’ do not have much information about the true environment of the earth over 251 million years ago. However, various theories point to a series of volcanic eruptions. Some believe the eruptions from these volcanos pumped so much rubble into the atmosphere that the sun could not keep the Earth warm enough and eventually, led to plant photosynthesis not being able to take place. With photosynthesis not taking place as usual, the food chain collapses gradually. On the other hand, there are scientists that argue global climate change is the cause of a random period of warming and cooling. If temperatures were in fact changing rapidly it is possible that the species at the time could not adapt to the changing climate fast enough. Lastly, there are theories that include a supposed storage of methane gas under the seabed that could’ve been released by earthquakes or a massive asteroid impact. These ideas are vital to the evaluative process of the Permian extinction and none are necessarily wrong or right.
The Permian extinction has been characterized as the elimination of over 95% of marine organisms and at least 70% of terrestrial (land) organisms. In addition, many of the taxonomic species living at that time vanished as well. The greatest losses among warm water marine invertebrates include trilobites, rugose, tabulate corals, and large groups of echinoderms (blastoids and crinolds). Terrestrial organisms were spared the most but still lost most massive amphibians and sauropsid reptiles (modernly known as lizards) and majority of the mammal-like reptiles (which would later evolve into the first mammals during the Triassic period). Most anapsid reptiles disappeared as well with the exception of the ancestors of today’s turtles and tortoises. It is not certain how much of an effect the Permian Extinction had on diapsid reptiles (ancestors of crocodiles, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs) but it is apparent that enough of the species survived because of the vast amounts of these reptiles we have on our Earth today.
In conclusion, no matter the cause, it is a fact that the Permian Extinction eliminated much of life on Earth during the Permian period. Because there are many factors that go into understanding why the extinction occurred, we may never know the cause for sure. Regardless of this, life on earth has still been able to evolve and grow continuously over time.