A Johns Hopkins University graduate student may have figured out why rates of extinction were so low for many of the major groups of marine life during one of the greatest ice ages of them all, which occurred from about 330 million to 290 million years ago, late in the Paleozoic Era.
The likely answer: because those aquatic life forms that did survive during this era were singularly equipped to endure severe fluctuations in temperature and sea levels. Those that were not died in a mass extinction that heralded the ice ages onset. "These results not only clue us in to what happened many millions of years ago, but they also have implications for understanding the modern marine ecosystem," said Matthew Powell, a doctoral candidate in the Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at The Johns Hopkins Universitys Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. His paper on the topic appears in the May issue of Geology, published by the Geological Society of America.
"If the patterns I detected also are true for the modern ice age -- and other researchers results suggest that they may be -- then modern marine life ought to be relatively resistant to extinction," he said. "Yet species are dying off at an alarming rate. It may be that humans have altered the environment so much that we are now causing the extinction of species that should be relatively immune. Though its difficult to say exactly what the implications are for the world we live in, what I can say is that it is worrisome."
Lisa De Nike | EurekAlert!
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