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How life (barely) survived the greatest extinction?
“An international team of researchers at the University of Calgary and the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Science have shown just how precarious the recovery of life was following Earth’s greatest extinction event, about 251.9 million years ago. A site near Shangsi in China’s Sichuan Province highlights a short-lived community of organisms that may hold clues to forces shaping our planet today and into the future.
In a paper published online this Monday in Geology entitled “Precarious ephemeral refugia during the earliest Triassic”, international scientists highlight an assemblage including microbial mats, trace fossils, bivalves, and echinoids that represent a refuge in a moderately deep-water setting.
“Refuge” describes an ecosystem that acts as a sanctuary for organisms during and immediately following times of environmental stress. The echinoids normally live in shallow-water environments, but in this case they sought refuge from lethally hot surface waters. The culprit was global warming associated with massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia, but modern-day events may lead to similar changes in today’s oceans.
The community was short-lived, and was extinguished by a relatively minor ecologic disturbance as determined from the geochemistry of the host rocks, only to be replaced by a low-diversity community of ‘disaster taxa’, opportunistic organisms that thrive while others go extinct.” (…) READ MORE
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