A volcano spawned death on Earth: new evidence of a super-eruption leading to mass extinction

New evidence found for super-eruptions leading to mass extinction

A group of scientists from the United States, China and Japan said that new concrete evidence confirming that the strongest volcanic eruption caused a mass extinction on our planet was found. Their research consisted of studying two separate events, namely volcanic eruptions. One turned out to be previously unknown to science, and science called the other the most destructive, which led to the mass extinction of land and marine life.

Over the last period, considered as a divergent evolution of early animals that began about 600 million years ago, there were five mass extinctions known to science. The third of these events was associated with volcanic eruptions in Siberia.

That territory is considered to be the largest region of volcanic rocks, it is also called the igneous province. But the correlation between the eruption and mass extinction is still unknown to the scientists. Sedimentary rocks that are enriched in mercury, became an indirect indicator of the events that took place. They are found in sediments on land, in shallow water bodies and large oceans.

The source of mercury in them could be both direct atmospheric deposition, which occurred as a result of volcanic emissions, and river formations that were formed during the period of oxidation of terrestrial organic matter, causing land devastation. The very largest extinction known to science occurred about 252 million years ago.

It marked the transition from the divergence of the Paleozoic reptiles and marine animals to the Mesozoic dinosaurs. At the end of the Permian period, a total of 90% of existing living organisms disappeared. University of Japan researcher Kunio Kaiho studied the possible triggers for the largest mass extinction.

Samples of sedimentary rocks were taken from two territories, the southern part of China and in Italy. There, the scientists checked the composition of organic molecules of mercury. It turned out that in both samples, it confirms the first terrestrial environmental problems that led to mass extinctions. This discovered product is one of the constituents of volcanic eruptions.

Reference: “Pulsed volcanic combustion events coincident with the end-Permian terrestrial disturbance and the following global crisis” by Kunio Kaiho, Md. Aftabuzzaman, David S. Jones and Li Tian, 4 November 2020, Geology. DOI: 10.1130/G48022.1