Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Ups and downs of biodiversity after mass extinction

The climate after the largest mass extinction so far 252 million years ago was cool, later very warm and then cool again.

Thanks to the cooler temperatures, the diversity of marine fauna ballooned, as paleontologists from the University of Zurich have reconstructed. The warmer climate, coupled with a high CO2 level in the atmosphere, initially gave rise to new, short-lived species. In the longer term, however, this climate change had an adverse effect on biodiversity and caused species to become extinct.

Amonoids peaked earlier after the vast mass extiction.

Feeding apparatus (reconstruction) of a Conodont.

Until now, it was always assumed that it took flora and fauna a long time to recover from the vast mass extinction at the end of the Permian geological period 252 million years ago. According to the scientific consensus, complex ecological communities only began to reappear in the Middle Triassic, so 247 million years ago. Now, however, a Swiss team headed by paleontologist Hugo Bucher from the University of Zurich reveals that marine animal groups such as ammonoids and conodonts (microfossils) already peaked three or four million years earlier, namely still during the Early Triassic.

The scientists chart the temperature curves in detail in Nature Geoscience, demonstrating that the climate and the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere fluctuated greatly during the Early Triassic and what impact this had on marine biodiversity and terrestrial plants.

Alternate cooler and very warm phases

For their climate reconstruction, Bucher and his colleagues analyzed the composition of the oxygen isotopes in conodonts, the remains of chordates that once lived in the sea. According to the study, the climate at the beginning of the Triassic 249 million years ago was cool. This cooler phase was followed by a brief very warm climate phase. At the end of the Early Triassic, namely between 247.9 and 245.9 million years ago, cooler conditions resumed.

Climate and carbon cycle influence biodiversity

The scientists then examined the impact of the climate on the development of flora and fauna. “Biodiversity increased most in the cooler phases,” explains paleontologist Bucher. “The subsequent extremely warm phase, however, led to great changes in the marine fauna and a major ecological shift in the flora.” Bucher and his team can reveal that this decline in biodiversity in the warm phases correlates with strong fluctuations in the carbon isotope composition of the atmosphere. These, in turn, were directly related to carbon dioxide gases, which stemmed from volcanic eruptions in the Siberian Large Igneous Province.

Species emerge and die out

Through the climatic changes, conodont and ammonoid faunae were initially able to recover very quickly during the Early Triassic as unusually short-lived species emerged. However, the removal of excess CO2 by primary producers such as algae and terrestrial plants had adverse effects in the long run: The removal of these vast amounts of organic matter used up the majority of the oxygen in the water. Due to the lack of oxygen in the oceans, many marine species died out. “Our studies reveal that greater climatic changes can lead to both the emergence and extinction of species. Thus, it is important to consider both extinction rates and the rate at which new species emerged,” says Bucher.

Bucher and his colleagues are convinced that climate changes and the emission of volcanic gases were key drivers of biotic recovery in the oceans during the Early Triassic: Cooler climate phases encourage biological diversification. Warmer climate phases and very high CO2 levels in the atmosphere, however, can have a harmful impact on biodiversity.

Carlo Romano, Nicolas Goudemand, Torsten W. Vennemann, David Ware, Elke Schneebeli-Hermann, Peter A. Hochuli, Thomas Brühwiler, Winand Brinkmann, Hugo Bucher. Climatic and biotic upheavals following the end-Permian mass extinction. Nature Geoscience. DOI: 10.1038/NGEO1667
Prof. Dr. Hugo Bucher
University of Zurich
Paleontological Institute and Museum
Tel. +41 44 634 23 44

Beat Müller | idw
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Wandering greenhouse gas
16.03.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System
14.03.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>