According to American scientists, today about a trillion animals live on our planet. But millions of years ago, even more, diverse living organisms lived on Earth, many of which we know nothing at all. They disappeared during five different mass extinctions, but the so-called Permian extinction is considered the most deadly of these events. It happened about 252 million years ago and killed 96% of marine animals and 78% of the inhabitants of the land. Scientists still do not know exactly what caused the death of most of the living creatures of our planet. Most likely, the animals died due to a combination of different events that were provoked by erupting volcanoes.
Mass extinction of animals
Scientists attribute the beginning of extinction to the high activity of volcanoes of those times. Hot lava has been pouring onto our planet for over a million years, and this phenomenon probably had serious consequences. So, researchers from the University of Manchester (England), in 2018, suggested that the extinction of animals was due to the release of volatile compounds of chlorine, bromine, and iodine into the air. They burned in lava, disappeared, and damaged the ozone layer of the planet. Subsequently, ultraviolet rays seriously affected the health of living organisms.
It sounds plausible, but it is worth recognizing that for the extinction of a huge number of animals, volcanoes and poisonous volatile compounds alone were clearly not enough. Scientists found a lot of evidence that during the existence of our planet there were time intervals when volcanoes were more active than during the Permian extinction. But, for some reason, no mass extinction took place then. So, during the eruption of volcanoes 252 million years ago, something else terrible happened?
The consequences of volcanic eruptions
Researchers from the US state of Arizona are sure that yes. In an article published in the scientific journal Geology, they hypothesized that volcanoes brought to the surface of coal deposits played a large role in the destruction of living creatures on Earth. Evidence of this was found near the Siberian River Yenisei by a group of scientists led by Professor Lindy Elkins-Tanton. It is believed that it was in Siberia that millions of years ago the so-called trap magmatism was observed – a strong outpouring of fiery-liquid mass from the bowels of the Earth.
As part of the scientific work, American scientists and dozens of geologists from different countries studied several centners of ancient stones collected in Siberia. In them they found the remains of burned wood and coal – most likely, millions of years ago, magma passed through a thick layer of coal and provoked the appearance of large fires.
According to researchers, the flame could burn for hundreds of thousands of years. Because of this, animals not only burned alive in the forests but also died from the indirect effects of fires. For example, fires could cause global warming, which would certainly affect the health of living things. Judging by the fossilized remains, the water temperature at the equator line reached 40 degrees Celsius – many living organisms simply boiled.
Fortunately, some animals still managed to survive in these terrible conditions. The most tenacious, of course, were insects like cockroaches – they still parasitize in some houses and are difficult to exterminate. The fact that insects have such survivability is great news for us. And all because without them, humanity could simply perish.