Unraveling the Mystery: What is a Possible Cause of the Extinction Event Called the Great Dying?

The Great Dying is a mysterious and devastating extinction event that wiped out almost all life on earth about 252 million years ago. It is believed that around 70% of land-based species and 90% of marine creatures perished, leaving only a few survivors who were able to adapt and evolve. This catastrophic event happened so suddenly and violently that its causes remained a mystery for many years. But lately, scientists have been able to gather some clues that could explain what may have caused this massive die-off.

One of the possible causes of the Great Dying could have been massive volcanic eruptions that happened in what is now Siberia. These eruptions, known as the Siberian Traps, released an enormous amount of lava, carbon dioxide, and other gases into the atmosphere, triggering a series of disastrous events that led to the extinction of most life on earth. Such massive volcanic activity could have caused the earth’s climate to change rapidly, leading to acid rain, severe temperature fluctuations, and other catastrophic effects that would have made it impossible for most species to survive.

Another possible cause of the Great Dying could have been changes in the ocean’s chemistry, leading to the collapse of marine ecosystems. It is believed that the massive releases of carbon dioxide from the Siberian Traps could have caused the oceans to become more acidic, leading to the death of organisms that cannot tolerate such conditions. Such a collapse of marine ecosystems would have had a domino effect on other species in the food chain, leading to a catastrophic extinction event that wiped out most life on earth.

Massive Volcanic Eruptions

One of the possible causes of the greatest extinction event in history, which took place around 252 million years ago and is known as the Great Dying, was massive volcanic eruptions. The eruptions occurred during a time when the supercontinent of Pangaea was forming, and resulted in massive amounts of volcanic ash, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere, leading to a dramatic shift in climate and a mass extinction of species.

  • The volcanic eruptions that caused the Great Dying are thought to have taken place in what is now known as Siberia, in an area called the Siberian Traps.
  • The eruptions were likely triggered by a process called mantle plume activity, in which magma rises from deep within the earth and creates a plume of hot rock and magma.
  • The volcanic activity may have gone on for thousands of years, with massive lava flows covering an area the size of the United States.

The volcanic eruptions that caused the Great Dying are thought to have had a number of effects on the earth’s climate and environment. One of the most significant impacts was the release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide acted as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in the atmosphere and causing a global warming effect. This warming would have had a number of impacts on the earth, including melting glaciers and causing sea levels to rise.

Another effect of the volcanic eruptions was the release of other chemicals and particles into the atmosphere, including sulfur dioxide and ash. These substances can have a cooling effect on the climate by reflecting sunlight back into space. However, it is thought that the warming effect of the carbon dioxide released by the eruptions was strong enough to outweigh the cooling effect of these other substances.

Impacts of volcanic eruptions during the Great Dying Description
Massive release of carbon dioxide Greenhouse gas effect leading to global warming
Release of sulfur dioxide and ash Cooling effect, but outweighed by warming effect of carbon dioxide
Impact on ocean acidity Acidification leading to extinction of marine species

The volcanic activity may also have had an impact on the acidity of the oceans. As carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, it reacts with water to form carbonic acid, which can lead to ocean acidification. This acidification can have a number of impacts on marine life, including the extinction of species that are unable to adapt to the changing conditions.

In conclusion, massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia are believed to be one of the major causes of the Great Dying extinction event. These eruptions released massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, leading to dramatic changes in climate and the extinction of many species.

Permian-Triassic era

The Permian-Triassic era, also known as the Great Dying, was the most severe extinction event to ever occur in Earth’s history. It wiped out almost 96% of marine species and over 70% of terrestrial species. The event took place about 252 million years ago and lasted for around 200,000 years.

  • Volcanic Eruptions: One of the possible causes of the Permian-Triassic extinction event is the massive volcanic eruptions that occurred in present-day Siberia. These eruptions produced vast amounts of lava, releasing greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, into the atmosphere. This caused a significant increase in global temperatures, leading to widespread extinction of species.
  • Ocean Acidification: The increase in carbon dioxide levels due to volcanic eruptions led to ocean acidification, which had a severe impact on marine life. Many species, especially those with calcium carbonate shells, were unable to survive the acidic conditions and went extinct.
  • Global Cooling: Interestingly, the massive volcanic eruptions that caused global warming events may have also triggered a global cooling event. As the volcanic aerosols (tiny particles) were ejected into the atmosphere, they blocked out the sun’s light and caused a significant drop in global temperatures. The sudden shift to colder weather could have been too much for many species to adapt to, leading to their extinction.

The Permian-Triassic extinction event was undoubtedly a significant turning point in the evolution of life on Earth. Scientists are still studying the causes of this event and its long-term effects on the environment and the species that survived it. However, we can learn from this event and the subsequent recovery of life on Earth to understand just how resilient and adaptable nature can be.

Below is a table highlighting some of the main events that occurred during the Permian-Triassic extinction event:

Event Approximate Date
Start of the volcanic eruptions 251 million years ago
Peak of volcanic activity 250 million years ago
Mass extinction event begins 252 million years ago
End of the extinction event around 200,000 years after it began

Despite the devastation caused by the Great Dying, life on Earth eventually recovered, and new species emerged to replace those that were lost. The Permian-Triassic era reminds us that the history of our planet is complex and awe-inspiring, and that we should always strive to protect it for the generations to come.

Oceanic Anoxic Events

The Great Dying, a mass extinction event that wiped out over 90% of all marine species and 70% of land species, is one of the biggest mysteries of our planet’s history. Scientists have been trying to understand what could have caused such a catastrophic event for years, and one of the leading theories is oceanic anoxic events.

An oceanic anoxic event (OAE) is a period in Earth’s history when the oceans become depleted of oxygen, leading to the death of many marine organisms. During an OAE, the water at the bottom of the ocean becomes stratified, with warm oxygen-rich surface waters sitting on top of cooler, oxygen-poor waters. This leads to the formation of dead zones at the bottom of the ocean, where no life can survive.

  • OAEs are thought to have been triggered by an influx of nutrients into the ocean, which caused an explosion in the population of single-celled organisms like cyanobacteria and algae. These organisms consume the oxygen in the water, leading to the formation of dead zones.
  • The most famous OAE is the one that occurred during the Permian-Triassic extinction event that brought about the Great Dying. This OAE was caused by massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia that released huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, leading to global warming.
  • Other OAEs have been linked to asteroid impacts, changes in ocean circulation, and changes in sea level.

Scientists are still trying to understand how OAEs impact the climate and how they contribute to mass extinction events like the Great Dying. One theory is that the release of greenhouse gases during an OAE could lead to a runaway greenhouse effect, where the Earth becomes too warm to support life.

Event Time Period
Siberian Traps 251 million years ago
Chicxulub Impact 66 million years ago
Toarcian Event 183 million years ago

However, more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind OAEs and how they contribute to mass extinctions. What is clear is that these events have occurred throughout Earth’s history and have played a significant role in shaping the evolution of life on our planet.

Climate Change

Climate change has long been recognized as a potential contributor to the Great Dying, also known as the Permian-Triassic extinction event. During this time, which occurred around 252 million years ago, the Earth experienced a major disruption in climatic conditions, with extreme temperatures and fluctuations in sea levels. This event resulted in the extinction of approximately 96% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial species. While the exact causes of this extinction event remain uncertain, it is widely believed that climate change played a major role in this mass extinction event.

  • One possible factor that may have contributed to the Great Dying was a buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This buildup may have occurred due to volcanic activity, which could have released significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. This increase in carbon dioxide could have led to a rise in atmospheric temperatures and a reduction in the amount of oxygen available for marine species.
  • Another possible contributor to the extinction event was the acidification of the oceans, which may have occurred due to increased carbon dioxide levels. The acidity of the oceans could have had a devastating impact on marine life, making it difficult for organisms to produce shells and other protective structures. This could have weakened many species, making them vulnerable to extinction.
  • Finally, the Great Dying may have been triggered by a combination of climate change and other factors, such as intense volcanic activity or asteroid impacts. These events could have disrupted the Earth’s ecosystems, making it difficult for species to adapt and survive.

Scientists continue to study the Great Dying in order to better understand its causes and the lessons that can be learned from this devastating period in Earth’s history.

Contributors to Climate Change During the Great Dying Possible Impact on Earth’s Ecosystems
Volcanic activity Increased carbon dioxide levels
Increased carbon dioxide levels Acidification of the oceans
Intense volcanic activity Disruption of the Earth’s ecosystems
Asteroid impacts Disruption of the Earth’s ecosystems

As we continue to grapple with the impact of human-made climate change on the Earth’s ecosystems, the lessons of the Great Dying remain a powerful reminder of the potential consequences when our planet experiences major disruptions in climatic conditions.

Ocean Acidification

One of the key possible causes of the Great Dying event is the phenomenon known as ocean acidification. This happens when carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere and then absorbed by the ocean. Once in the water, the carbon dioxide reacts to form carbonic acid, which lowers the pH levels of the ocean, making it more acidic.

Scientists have determined that massive volcanic eruptions were the cause of the carbon dioxide release that led to ocean acidification during the Great Dying. These volcanic eruptions produced a huge amount of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, that caused global temperatures to rise and the oceans to absorb more of this gas.

The higher levels of acidity in the ocean make it difficult for marine organisms, such as plankton, mollusks, and coral, to build and maintain their shells and skeletons. The acid dissolves calcium carbonate, which is a crucial building block for these organisms. As a result, many species were unable to survive, leading to a dramatic decline in marine biodiversity.

Effects of Ocean Acidification

  • The acidification of the ocean can cause coral reefs to dissolve and crumble, which can have a devastating impact on the marine ecosystem.
  • Shellfish and other marine organisms that rely on calcium carbonate to build their shells may have difficulty doing so, leading to reduced populations.
  • The imbalance of pH levels in the ocean can also affect the food chain, causing a decline in fish and other predatory marine animals that rely on the smaller organisms affected by acidification.

Current State of Ocean Acidification

The current state of ocean acidification is cause for concern. Since the industrial revolution, the pH level of the ocean has dropped by 0.1 pH units, which may not sound like a lot, but it’s actually a 30% increase in acidity. If emissions continue at current levels, scientists predict that the pH could drop by another 0.3 units by the end of the century, which would be a level of acidity that the oceans haven’t experienced in over 20 million years.

A recent study found that ocean acidification has already reached levels that could have a devastating impact on the shells and skeletons of marine organisms. This could lead to a collapse in marine biodiversity and a ripple effect that will impact the entire ocean food chain, including humans who rely on fish for their primary source of protein.


Causes of Ocean Acidification Effects
Carbon dioxide absorption from the atmosphere Corals dissolve and crumble, reduced populations of shellfish and other marine organisms, imbalance in food chain

Ocean acidification is a significant threat to the health of the marine ecosystem and ultimately to human well-being. It’s crucial that policymakers and the public take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the ongoing acidification of the ocean.

End-Permian extinction

The End-Permian extinction, also known as the Great Dying, is considered the most catastrophic extinction event in Earth’s history. It occurred about 252 million years ago towards the end of the Permian period and wiped out over 90% of all species on Earth, including vast numbers of marine invertebrates, insects, and plants. The cause of the End-Permian extinction is complex and multi-faceted, with a variety of factors contributing to the mass extinction event.

  • Volcanic activity: The Siberian Traps Large Igneous Province, a massive volcanic event, occurred around the same period as the End-Permian extinction. The volcanic activity covered an area of nearly 7 million square kilometers and released immense amounts of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and other gases into the atmosphere, leading to global warming, ocean acidification, and oxygen depletion, which drastically affected marine life and carbon-cycling processes.
  • Oceanic anoxic events: As a result of the immense volcanic activity and greenhouse gas emissions, the oceans became more acidic and anoxic (depleted of oxygen), triggering widespread marine die-offs, particularly of benthic organisms that lived at the bottom of the ocean. The anoxic conditions also promoted the growth of anaerobic bacteria that produced toxic hydrogen sulfide and methane, creating a ‘deadly trio’ of environmental stressors.
  • Impact event: Some scientists suggest that a large asteroid impact or comet strike could have contributed to the End-Permian extinction. However, the evidence for such an event is scanty and controversial.

The combination of these factors led to a positive feedback loop, whereby one stressor led to another, exacerbating the damage done to the biosphere. The recovery of life after the End-Permian extinction was slow, taking millions of years for ecosystems to regain their diversity and complexity.

The End-Permian extinction serves as a sobering reminder of the fragility of life on Earth and the potential consequences of environmental perturbations.

Causes Effects
Volcanic activity Greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, ocean acidification, oxygen depletion, marine die-offs, carbon imbalance
Oceanic anoxic events Acidification, anoxia, benthic die-offs, toxic gas production, feedback loop
Impact event Possible but uncertain and controversial

The factors that caused the End-Permian extinction are complex and interrelated, making it difficult to pinpoint a single cause or event. However, the evidence points to a combination of volcanic activity, oceanic anoxic events, and possibly an impact event, which together unleashed environmental stresses that proved lethal to most of life on Earth.

Biotic Feedback Loops

Biotic feedback loops were a key factor in the great dying, also known as the Permian-Triassic extinction event. These loops occur when changes in one species or group of organisms in an ecosystem trigger cascading effects throughout the entire system. This can result in the extinction of multiple species and the collapse of entire ecosystems.

The great dying is thought to have been triggered by a number of factors, including a massive volcanic eruption in what is now Siberia. This event released vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, leading to global warming and changes in ocean chemistry. These changes in turn triggered biotic feedback loops that helped to push the extinction event over the edge.

Examples of Biotic Feedback Loops

  • Overgrazing by herbivores can lead to the destruction of vegetation, which can cause soil erosion and changes in nutrient availability. This can then impact the survival of other species in the ecosystem, including predators.
  • The introduction of a new species to an ecosystem can have unexpected impacts on other species. For example, the introduction of rabbits to Australia led to the destruction of vast areas of vegetation, which in turn impacted the survival of numerous other species.
  • The decline of a crucial food source can have knock-on effects for other species. For example, the overfishing of cod in the Atlantic Ocean has led to a decline in their prey species, which has negatively impacted other predatory species in the ecosystem.

The Role of Biotic Feedback Loops in the Great Dying

The great dying is thought to have been triggered by a range of factors, including the volcanic eruption in Siberia and subsequent changes in the atmosphere and oceans. However, biotic feedback loops likely played a role in exacerbating the extinction event.

For example, researchers have found evidence that the collapse of marine ecosystems in the Permian-Triassic extinction event was driven by changes in nutrient availability caused by the volcanic eruption. These changes likely triggered biotic feedback loops that impacted multiple species and drove them towards extinction.

Biotic Feedback Loop Impact on Ecosystem
Decline of primary producers (such as plankton) Reduction in food sources for other species, leading to collapses in food webs
Disruption of nutrient cycling Limited availability of key nutrients, leading to declines in diverse groups of organisms
Loss of keystone species Disruption of ecological roles and relationships, leading to cascading impacts on multiple species

Overall, biotic feedback loops played a significant role in the Permian-Triassic extinction event. They demonstrate the complex and interconnected nature of ecosystems, and the importance of understanding these interactions in order to protect vulnerable species and prevent future extinction events.

FAQs: What Is a Possible Cause of the Extinction Event Called the Great Dying?

1. What is the Great Dying?

The Great Dying is a mass extinction event that happened about 252 million years ago, where over 90% of all living species were wiped out.

2. What caused the Great Dying?

There are several theories on the cause of the Great Dying, but one of the most widely accepted ones is the massive volcanic eruptions that happened in what is now Siberia, releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gases and causing severe climate change.

3. How did climate change affect the environment and organisms?

The climate change caused by the volcanic eruptions led to a rise in temperature, ocean acidity, and a decrease in oxygen levels, making it difficult for many organisms to survive. It also caused changes in plant communities and disrupted food chains.

4. What other factors could have contributed to the Great Dying?

Other factors that could have played a role include a catastrophic asteroid impact, sea level fluctuations, and gradual changes in the Earth’s environment.

5. Was the Great Dying sudden or gradual?

The extinction event happened relatively quickly, over a period of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years.

6. Did any organisms survive the Great Dying?

Yes, some organisms did survive, including some reptiles and insects. But it took millions of years for biodiversity to recover.

7. Could something like the Great Dying happen again?

It’s always possible, but we now have a better understanding of the factors that contribute to mass extinctions and can use that knowledge to prevent them from happening again.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading about the possible causes of the Great Dying. It can be sobering to consider the massive impact that natural events can have on our planet, but it’s also inspiring to know that we can learn from the past to make a better future. Please come back soon to learn more about the wonders of our world!