Navigation Links
Earth's massive extinction: The story gets worse
Date:1/5/2012

Scientists have uncovered a lot about the Earth's greatest extinction event that took place 250 million years ago when rapid climate change wiped out nearly all marine species and a majority of those on land. Now, they have discovered a new culprit likely involved in the annihilation: an influx of mercury into the eco-system.

"No one had ever looked to see if mercury was a potential culprit. This was a time of the greatest volcanic activity in Earth's history and we know today that the largest source of mercury comes from volcanic eruptions," says Dr. Steve Grasby, co-author of a paper published this month in the journal Geology. "We estimate that the mercury released then could have been up to 30 times greater than today's volcanic activity, making the event truly catastrophic." Grasby is a research scientist at Natural Resources Canada and an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary.

Dr. Benoit Beauchamp, professor of geology at the University of Calgary, says this study is significant because it's the first time mercury has been linked to the cause of the massive extinction that took place during the end of the Permian.

"Geologists, including myself should be taking notes and taking another look at the other five big extinction events," says Beauchamp, also a co-author.

During the late Permian, the natural buffering system in the ocean became overloaded with mercury contributing to the loss of 95 per cent of life in the sea.

"Typically, algae acts like a scavenger and buries the mercury in the sediment, mitigating the effect in the oceans," says lead-author Dr. Hamed Sanei, research scientist at Natural Resources Canada and adjunct professor at the University of Calgary. "But in this case, the load was just so huge that it could not stop the damage."

About 250 million years ago, a time long before dinosaurs ruled and when all land formed one big continent, the majority of life in the ocean and on land was wiped out. The generally accepted idea is that volcanic eruptions burned though coal beds, releasing CO2 and other deadly toxins. Direct proof of this theory was outlined in a paper that was published by these same authors last January in Nature Geoscience.

The mercury deposition rates could have been significantly higher in the late Permian when compared with today's human-caused emissions. In some cases, levels of mercury in the late Permian ocean was similar to what is found near highly contaminated ponds near smelters, where the aquatic system is severely damaged, say researchers.

"We are adding to the levels through industrial emissions. This is a warning for us here on Earth today," adds Beauchamp. Canada has taken a lead role in reducing emissions internationally. In North America, at least, there has been a steady decline through regulations controlling mercury.

No matter what happens, this study shows life's tenacity. "The story is one of recovery as well. After the system was overloaded and most of life was destroyed, the oceans were still able to self clean and we were able to move on to the next phase of life," says Sanei.


'/>"/>

Contact: Leanne Yohemas
lmyohema@ucalgary.ca
403-540-6552
University of Calgary
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. International team to drill beneath massive Antarctic ice shelf
2. Trillions served: Massive, complex projects for DOE JGI 2012 Community Sequencing Program
3. Climate change causing massive movement of tree species across the West
4. Scientists report dramatic carbon loss from massive Arctic wildfire
5. Loss of top animal predators has massive ecological effects
6. Invasive mussels causing massive ecological changes in Great Lakes
7. Cephalopods experience massive acoustic trauma from noise pollution in the oceans
8. Study finds massive flux of gas, in addition to liquid oil, at BP well blowout in Gulf
9. Massive Daphnia genome leads to understanding gene-environment interactions
10. Massive endocytosis in cells
11. Massive gene loss linked to pathogens stealthy plant-dependent lifestyle
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Earth's massive extinction: The story gets worse
(Date:2/4/2016)... 4, 2016 The field of Human ... the most popular hubs of the biotechnology industry. ... huge studies of human microbiota, have garnered a ... the microbiome space has literally exploded in terms ... This report focuses on biomedical aspects of research, ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/d8zjcd/emotion_detection ) ... "Emotion Detection and Recognition Market by Technology ... Tools (Facial Expression, Voice Recognition and Others), ... Global forecast to 2020" report to ... ) has announced the addition of the ...
(Date:2/2/2016)... 2, 2016 Technology Enhancements Accelerate Growth of X-ray ... the digital and computed radiography markets in ... Indonesia (TIM). It provides an ... as well as regional market drivers and restraints. The ... penetration and market attractiveness, both for digital and computed ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/9/2016)... ... 09, 2016 , ... With a presidential election in November and the future ... bring together over 500 top healthcare leaders for a night and day of debates ... by MBA students of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, will be held February ...
(Date:2/9/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Tunnell Consulting, Inc. announced that Frédéric Lefebvre has joined the ... acquiring new accounts and work closely with existing Tunnell clients throughout Europe to ensure ... European clients more than 15 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, a thorough ...
(Date:2/9/2016)... NEW YORK , Feb. 9, 2016 ... market analyzes the current and future prospects of the ... of this report include companies engaged in the manufacture ... comprises an executive summary with a market snapshot providing ... the scope of this report. This section also provides ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... - BIOREM Inc. (TSXV: BRM) ("Biorem" or "the Company") today ... technology companies in the TSX Venture 50 TM . ... the TSX Venture Exchange, in each of five major industry ... & life sciences, diversified industries and technology – based on ... investment, market cap growth, trading volume and analyst coverage. All ...
Breaking Biology Technology: