The Permian-Triassic catastrophe (250 million years ago) was the worst of all five of the mass extinction events to ever have befallen the earth. It eradicated almost 95% of all species, 53% of marine families, 84% of marine genera and an approximated 70% of all land species including plants, insects and vertebrate animals.
Many scientists suspect that the event was the result of a comet or an asteroid colliding with the earth. Others believe that flood volcanism from the Siberian Traps and the associated oxygen loss in the seas was the cause. While others continue to investigate the possibility that thinning levels of atmospheric oxygen caused the eradication of so many species at the time.
But new research findings by University College Dublin scientists published in Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, question the theory of falling oxygen levels as a mechanism for causing the mass extinction events.
To assess the likely atmospheric oxygen levels at the time of the mass extinction events, using purposefully designed walk-in-plant-growth rooms equipped with thermal imaging system and full atmospheric, temperature and humidity control, Dr Claire Belcher and her University College Dublin colleagues spent several months measuring the lower limits of oxygen at which combustion can occur. When the measurements were recorded, they compared their results with the charcoal in the fossil record from ancient times because the charcoal that remains in the fossil record reveals the presence of ancient wildfires which require a sufficient level of oxygen in the air for plants to burn.
“By performing experimental burns using pine wood, moss, matches, paper and a candle at 20°C in varying ranges of oxygen concentrations and comparing these results to the occurrences of fossil charcoal throughout the Mesozoic (250-65 million years ago), we were able to identify that prolonged periods of low oxygen are unlikely to have occurred,” says Dr Claire Belcher from the School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin, the lead author of the report.
“Low oxygen atmospheres, less than 12%, are considered to be the primary driver of at least two of the ‘big five’ mass-extinction events,” explains Dr Belcher. “But our research findings question that hypothesis and highlight the need for more detailed studies of fossil charcoal across these mass extinction events.”
This is the first time that research to identify the lower limit of atmospheric oxygen under which combustion can occur have been conducted within fully controlled and realistic environments. The six walk-in chambers at University College Dublin, funded by EU Marie Curie, enable the realistic reconstruction of environmental conditions from the past.
Dominic Martella | alfa
Enormous dome in central Andes driven by huge magma body beneath it
25.10.2016 | University of California - Santa Cruz
Deep down fracking wells, microbial communities thrive
25.10.2016 | DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Life Sciences
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences