The ‘Great Dying’
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage Ceylon Today Features
Last week, we talked about the K-T extinction event which brought an end to the age of the dinosaurs. It definitely was a massive event that changed the world as we know it. You and I wouldn’t be here without this happening. As massive of an event that was, it wasn’t the only time Earth had to deal with a mass extinction event.
What is it?
The word ‘extinct’ is used when a species of animal is completely wiped off the face of the Earth. It could happen from a giant meteor from space like the dinosaurs, or even because of us humans. The Dodo is one such bird that went extinct because we hunted them too much. A mass extinction event happens when a whole bunch of species are wiped out, never to be found on Earth again. The K-T extinction even was one such mass extinction event. Although a lot of animals died because of it, this was nothing compared to the greatest mass extinction event that has happened on this planet.
The ‘Great Dying’
Over 250 million years ago, long before there were dinosaurs, was the Permian-Triassic extinction event, also known as the ‘Great Dying.’ Scientists discovered that this happened in between the Permian and Triassic ages, which is why it got the name. During the Permian age, life was thriving both on land and underwater. This is mainly because the Earth was very similar to what it is like today, both in the level of temperature and oxygen in the air and water. In the ocean, you would find a whole lot of starfish, sea urchins and trilobites. There might have been a whole bunch of fish as well, but we don’t have enough fossils to confirm anything.
If we went out of the water, on land, you would have found a lot of giant cockroaches and other big insects. There were also a group of animals called Therapids; these would later evolve to become mammals. There were also archosaurs, who would later evolve into becoming dinosaurs. However, around 252 million years ago, more than 90 per cent of all the animals we know of having existed during this time as fossils suddenly disappeared. The oceans were the most affected with more than 95 per cent of all the creatures identified from that time becoming extinct.
We don’t know exactly what started it all, but we do know that almost all life on Earth that we knew of during that period, got suddenly wiped out. Scientists are still trying to figure out what happened way back then to trigger this mass extinction. It’s one of the biggest mysteries of ancient Earth. But we do have a small idea of what might have happened.
Scientists have found out that there were some huge volcanic eruptions that happened during this time period. The eruptions were big enough to release a massive amount of greenhouse gases being released into the air, which caused global warming. With temperatures going up, the oxygen in the water would have dropped considerably and the fish and other sea creatures would have died without being able to breathe. As for on land, the volcanic eruptions might have destroyed a lot of plant life, which would have led to many land animals struggling to survive as well.
Before it’s too late
Much like what might have happened in the ‘Great Dying,’ the world today is facing another mass extinction event caused by global warming; a result of all that we are doing to the environment. Back then, the world had millions of years to recover from the extinction event, which led to the beginning of the age of the dinosaurs.
Today, because of other things we do such as polluting the ocean and cutting down forests, the world does not have that chance to recover. If we don’t take action now to be more environmentally friendly, then we might not be able to stop the already ongoing mass extinction event right now as we speak. It’s up to you to start making those small choices to be more ecofriendly, before it’s too late.