Previously unknown global ecological disaster discovered

From the UNIVERSITY OF ZURICH

Approximately 500,000 years after the major natural disaster at the boundary between the Permian and the Triassic another event altered the vegetation fundamentally and for longer. CREDIT UZH

Approximately 500,000 years after the major natural disaster at the boundary between the Permian and the Triassic another event altered the vegetation fundamentally and for longer. CREDIT UZH

There have been several mass extinctions in the history of the earth. One of the largest known disasters occurred around 252 million years ago at the boundary between the Permian and the Triassic. Almost all sea-dwelling species and two thirds of all reptiles and amphibians died out. Although there were also brief declines in diversity in the plant world, they recovered in the space of a few thousand years, which meant that similar conditions to before prevailed again.

Change in flora within a millennia

Researchers from the Institute and Museum of Paleontology at the University of Zurich have now discovered another previously unknown ecological crisis on a similar scale in the Lower Triassic. The team headed by Peter A. Hochuli and Hugo Bucher revealed that another event altered the vegetation fundamentally and for longer approximately 500,000 years after the major natural disaster at the boundary between the Permian and the Triassic.

The scientists studied sediments towering over 400 meters high from North-Eastern Greenland. Carbon isotope curves suggest that the prevalent seed ferns and conifers were replaced by spore plants in the space of a few millennia. To this day, certain spore plants like ferns are still famous for their ability to survive hostile conditions better than more highly developed plants.

Catastrophic ecological upheaval changes plant world

Until now, it was assumed that the environment gradually recovered during the Lower Triassic 252.4 to 247.8 million years ago. “The drastic, simultaneous changes in flora and the composition of the carbon isotopes indicate that the actual upheaval in the vegetation didn’t take place until the Lower Triassic, i.e. around 500,000 years later than previously assumed,” explains Hochuli.

The researchers didn’t just observe the mass death of vegetation in Greenland; they already discovered the first indications of this floral shift a few years ago in sediment samples from Pakistan. Moreover, the latest datings of volcanic ash by Australian scientists show that the most significant change in the plant world did not happen until a few millennia after the Permian/Triassic boundary. During this period, the indigenous glossopteris seed plant group died out, an event that had previously been dated back to the Permian. Thanks to these findings, the sediment sequences of the supercontinent Gondwana in the southern hemisphere now need to be reinterpreted.

Crisis probably triggered by volcanic eruptions

What caused this newly described natural disaster remains unclear. “However, we see a link between this previously unknown global event and the enormous volcanic eruptions we know from the Lower Triassic in what’s now Siberia,” explains Bucher, Director of UZH’s Institute and Museum of Paleontology.

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Literature:

Peter A. Hochuli, Anna Sanson-Barrera, Elke Schneebeli-Hermann & Hugo Bucher. Severest crisis overlooked – Worst disruption of terrestrial environments postdates the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. Nature Scientific Reports. June 24, 2016. Doi: 10.1038/srep28372

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119 thoughts on “Previously unknown global ecological disaster discovered

  1. Well, THIS is gonna be a fun b.s. theory fest. Did the hit cause the later vulcanism?

    Does this have ANYTHING to do with climate at all? Immaterial of carbon, is this information useful in any way?

      • It shows that extinctions are more frequent than previously believed and recover with greater speed and efficiency than previously presumed. I think that’s the big take-away, that flora species diversification took as little as a few thousands years.

      • coaldust said “It shows that extinctions are not as bad as they are cracked up to be.”
        Doesn’t that all depend on whether you’re one of the extincted or not? Which brings up the question do plants suffer survivor’s guilt?

    • Why does it have to have ANYTHING to with climate? The discipline of paleobotany has a longer history than climatology and there still is much to be discovered and understood.

      • It’s possible that climate change didn’t wipe out the seed ferns.

        They might have been eaten to extinction by the then ubiquitous “pig lizard” Lystrosaurus, which dominated the fauna of Pangaea in the aftermath of the Permian-Triassic “Great Dying”.

    • About Watts Up With That? News and commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news by Anthony Watts

    • Everything that has happened on this planet has affected it’s climate. Earth’s systems are all coupled together, and how those systems act and react to each other results in its climate. What we learn about its past, affects what we understand about its present and it’s future.

      Were/are you under the impression that aside from “carbon”, Earth the planet and Earth’s climate have no relationship to each other?

      • Aphan,
        You are right. Every butterfly’s wing-flutter is of some importance.
        I think, on a casual scan of the above, the significance is related to the species-blooming in the [geologically short] interval between the extinctions.

        And life today has had more extinctions to survive . . . .

        Auto [not one of the recent extinctees – h/t to JustAnOldGuy, June 28, 2016 at 10:46 am
        ].

      • Yet another “unknown” about the past that a certain someone didn’t see when he was reading his tree rings.

        prjindigo, all the..uh…stuff presented supporting the CAGW meme (and the politics and policies that feed on it) are presented to the public as certainties. The “Climate Scientist” know and understand so we should all stop thinking and surrender to the All Knowing Ones. The computer models say so.
        Well, here’s yet another thing they didn’t know. Why continue the politics and policies?
        The end justifies the means?

      • Oh Auto, I so did not mean to insinuate that butterfly flutters have any significance at all! Nor cat sneezes, nor dog whispers, nor the bleatings of 10,000 IPCC supporters. Not nearly that micro focused am I.

        Let me clarify, “everything that has happened that affect Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, geosphere and hemisphere “….

        Is there a level between macro and micro…maybe mecro? Or mucro? Moooooocro? :)

  2. Interesting.

    I wonder how many more of these are going to be discovered? Now that our technology is advancing to the point where new discoveries re-write old ones–or tend to shift them from absolutes that is.

  3. They didn’t say, but there is always at least the implied idiotic notion that we are currently in the midst of “mass extinction event” no. 6. It’s an obsession.

      • Thomas H.
        Quite.
        We knew of the Bramble Cay mouse.
        How many other short-lived [say under 100,000 year span] island species will we ever know, even from the Pleistocene?
        Let alone from the Oligocene or Triassic.
        The mechanisms of speciation will have been essentially similar; but our chances of finding remains in a 500 million square kilometre world are not too high.

        Auto,
        Appreciating more and more to this day how big a world we live in!

  4. My BS theory.

    A comet or large meteorite strike, causes a large imput of mechanical energy, causes
    heating of the earth’s core, causes vulcanism.

    The strike also causes shock, vibration, and the heat which removes clethrates from
    their zone of stability, causing a massive release of natural gas iinto the atmosphere.

    http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/40/3/195.short

  5. I remember a very enjoyable dinner conversation with someone who made a case that the dinosaurs died out because flowering plants developed an annual seed reproduction system. The larger herbivores needed to eat large amounts of plant matter on a daily basis and annual seed-bearing plants meant that there was often not enough plant material for them to eat (each winter). The loss of the large herbivores led to the loss of the larger carnivores and smaller animals which could survive poor food supplies in the winter took over.

    The argument centered on whether the anti-feedant compounds in many seeds were a critical component as human beings were able to sue these seeds as foods once they determined how to cook them and denature the compounds (since then, we have used plant breeding to remove most of them from our crop plants). The thesis was that the dinousaurs died out because they couldn’t cook – which was wonderfully provocative enough to keep the conversation going for the whole 2 hours.

    Ah, the days when you could have a disagreement and enjoy the argument without getting violent!

    • Many ornithischian dinosaurs evolved to take advantage of the spread of angiosperms. The largest herbivores, sauropods, primarily ate conifers, which didn’t go away, so weren’t affected by the evolution of angiosperms.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11569792

      Angiosperms emerged in large numbers some 70 million years before the demise of the non-avian dinosaurs.

    • Rob, sounds positively delightful! Did anyone counter propose that perhaps the flowering plants developed seed reproduction as a self defensive, or homicidal tendency towards herbivores in general? I mean as provocative as the notion that dinosaurs died because they couldn’t cook is, even a sauropod knows that vegetarians make lousy cooks even with today’s technology. :) *chuckle*

  6. “Until now, it was assumed that the environment gradually recovered…”

    The same nonsense phase has been used with evolution in general. I never accepted the concept of slow, incremental change. It simply isn’t supported by the fossil record, ever.

    Stephen J Gould: Punctuated equilibrium.

    Big changes happen in very compressed time frames. So “Until now” would be wrong to say in this day and age of 2016.

    • Gould’s hypothesis has been thoroughly discredited.

      Evolution occurs both rapidly and slowly. New species and genera can and often do evolve in a single generation. New families, orders, classes and phyla generally take longer.

      • “New species and genera can and often do evolve in a single generation.” Yes. That is part of Gould’s assertion. So you agree also. OK

      • That is not Gould’s assertion. It’s a fact.

        Where Gould went wrong was in arguing that major transitions, ie the evolution of higher taxa, also occur rapidly. This is generally not the case.

        Resolution of the fossil and genetic record at much higher resolution than available in 1972 has shown his hypothesis false. Gould was a Marxist, who let his ideology affect his science.

      • Human evolution provides examples of both rapid and gradual evolution.

        Erect walking appears linked to a gross chromosomal mutation, the fusion of two smaller, standard ape chromosomes into human chromosome #2 (which is why we have 23 pairs and the other great apes 24). This then led to gradual changes in our ancestors’ dentition and other changes.

        It also appears that a single mutation enabled our brains to grow larger, but they gained mass at a fairly steady, slow rate for two million years thereafter.

      • Paul and Gabro,

        I think it is possible that both of you are misrepresenting Gould’s actual theories/statements, by taking extreme and opposing positions on his work.

        Wikipedia under punctuated equilibrium. Mostly for the Gould quotes in it:

        “The punctuational nature of punctuated equilibrium has engendered perhaps the most confusion over Eldredge and Gould’s theory. Gould’s sympathetic treatment of Richard Goldschmidt,[40] the controversial geneticist who advocated the idea of “hopeful monsters,” led some biologists to conclude that Gould’s punctuations were occurring in single-generation jumps.[41][42][43][44] This interpretation has frequently been exploited by creationists to mischaracterize the weakness of the paleontological record, and to portray contemporary evolutionary biology as advancing neo-saltationism.[45] In an often quoted remark , Gould stated, “Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.”[46] Although there exist some debate over how long the punctuations last, supporters of punctuated equilibrium generally place the figure between 50,000 and 100,000 years.[47]”

        @@@@@@@
        Gould AGREED that there abundant transitional forms of higher taxa in the fossil record. Gould and Eldredge contributed greatly to our understanding of evolution by pointing out how many episodes of “stasis” there are in the fossil record. But he did NOT propose that punctuated equilibrium theory should replace gradual evolution theory, simply that there were periods of stasis in the records that needed to be accounted for in whatever mode of speciation the evolutionary sciences eventually agreed upon. As far as I know, Gould never did settle on one specific theory for explaining what causes periods of stasis in the evolutionary records.
        @@@@@@@@

        “According to Gould, “stasis may emerge as the theory’s most important contribution to evolutionary science.”[38] Philosopher Kim Sterelny adds, “In claiming that species typically undergo no further evolutionary change once speciation is complete, they are not claiming that there is no change at all between one generation and the next. Lineages do change. But the change between generations does not accumulate. Instead, over time, the species wobbles about its phenotypic mean. Jonathan Weiner’s The Beak of the Finch describes this very process.”[39]

        “The fossil record includes well documented examples of phyletic gradualism and punctuational evolution.[26] As such, much debate persists over the prominence of stasis in the fossil record.[28]”

      • Gabro, I’m with Aphan and think you misrepresent Stephen Jay Gould, especially when you say “Resolution of the fossil and genetic record at much higher resolution than available in 1972 has shown his hypothesis false. Gould was a Marxist, who let his ideology affect his science.”

        Gould was active until he died in 2002 and had plenty of time to update his theory in the light of new evidence if he thought it was warranted. I used to read all of his papers and books and don’t recall any change of mind based on new evidence, which he regularly commented on.

        Also, to quote from his Wikipedia entry: “Though he “had been brought up by a Marxist father” he stated that his father’s politics were “very different” from his own.[10] In describing his own political views, he has said they “tend to the left of center.”” I’m not sure how being a Marxist would taint his work, but I picked up nothing about Marxism from his general works. Instead he was much happier writing about baseball, Gilbert & Sullivan, and his family.

      • Aphan and KRM,

        My statements about Gould are correct.

        That he never (AFAIK) recanted his belief in PE just shows how committed he was to the hypothesis, even after it was recognized as false by most, if not all, biologists and paleontologists. There have however been many discoveries in Precambrian life since his death in 2002. Gould’s view of the Cambrian Explosion has been thoroughly discredited. He might have changed his mind, presented with the evidence we now have.

        Aphan’s quotation shows precisely what I said was wrong with Gould’s falsified hypothesis. His estimate of 50 to 100 thousand years for “gradual” evolution of transitional forms among higher taxa is simply far too brief for most complex, multicellular organisms, in between the major genetic and mutational events that often produce species and genera, or enable further gradual development, as I indicated using H. sapiens as an example. Numerous other organisms would have worked just as well.

        The few examples he and his colleague could muster in favor of this view were sketchy then and are now known to be invalid. As above, phyla which Gould imagined springing to life in the Cambrian have since been found in the Precambrian. The tiny, soft-bodied predecessors of trilobites have even been found in the very Burgess Shale about which Gould wrote. Thus, arthropods didn’t suddenly emerge in the Cambrian, but got larger and armored then.

        KRM,

        Gould claimed that within his family’s subculture, he learned Marxism “at his daddy’s knee”. He did indeed say that his politics were very different from his father’s, but never explained exactly how. Maybe he referred to rejecting Stalinism.

        Whatever this statement meant, it is clear from Gould’s work that he was strongly influenced by Marxist beliefs. In his ‘The Culture of Critique’, evolutionary psychologist (a discipline opposed by Gould) Dr. Kevin MacDonald wrote that Gould has “acknowledged that his theory of evolution as punctuated equilibria was attractive to him as a Marxist because it posited periodic revolutionary upheavals in evolution rather than conservative, gradualist change”.

        Gould freely admitted that his punctuated equilibrium theory attracted him because of his knowledge of Hegel and Marx. It’s clear that Gould allowed his Marxist philosophy to influence his science. In 2002, Richard Monastersky, then at the Chronicle of Higher Education but now with Nature, went so far as to call Gould “muddle-headed, hypocritical, blinded by Marxism, and rhetorically dishonest”.

        Here’s a relevant recent article by Monastersky on the “Anthropocene” controversy:

        http://www.nature.com/news/anthropocene-the-human-age-1.17085

        In short, Gould did not AFAIK ever d@ny being a Marxist. He made no secret of his fashionably Leftist leanings, and was involved in the ‘Marxist Science for the People’ group (with even more ardent Marxist Richard Lewontin). The Socialist Worker Online mentions that Gould was on the advisory boards of the journal Rethinking Marxism and the Brecht Forum, sponsor of the New York Marxist School. The Encyclopedia of the American Left singled Gould out as one of the “few scientists [who] have emerged as major public allies of the Left” and as “perhaps the most formidable example of a supportive presence at Left events and for Left causes”.

      • Gabro says: June 28, 2016 at 9:10 am

        That is not Gould’s assertion. It’s a fact.

        “Vass you dere, Sharlie?” link

      • Gabro,

        The 50,000-100,000 year estimation is from “supporters” of the theory, not a quote from Gould. You seem to believe that PE theory says something it does not say.

        http://www.evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/VIIA1bPunctuated.shtml
        “More on Punctuated Equilibrium”

        “Punctuated equilibrium is an important but often-misinterpreted model of how evolutionary change happens. Punctuated equilibrium does not:

        *Suggest that Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is wrong.
        *Mean that the central conclusion of evolutionary theory, that life is old and organisms share a common ancestor, no longer holds.
        *Negate previous work on how evolution by natural selection works.
        *Imply that evolution only happens in rapid bursts.

        Punctuated equilibrium predicts that a lot of evolutionary change takes place in short periods of time tied to speciation events. Here’s an example of how the model works:….”

        “We observe similar patterns in the fossil records of many organisms. For example, the fossil records of certain foraminiferans (single-celled protists with shells) are consistent with a punctuated pattern.”

        “However, it is also important to note that we observe examples of gradual, non-punctuated, evolution in the fossil record too. The question that needs answering is: what are the relative frequencies of punctuated and gradual change?”

        That you clearly do not like SJG is obvious. But your dislike and personal opinions are not evidence that his theory has been debunked and does not change the fact that this highly awarded and recognized scientist changed the way scientists study evolution. You are letting YOUR ideology about HIS ideology affect the facts, which is the antithesis of scientific discussion.

      • Arphan,

        Actually I liked him personally. I hired some of his graduate students. I read his essays, particularly in the history of science. But his EP hypothesis has been falsified. That’s not my opinion, but a fact.

        Your quotations from anti-creationist sites aren’t the least bit relevant to the discussion of the validity of his hypothesis. His and Eldredge’s attempts to attack the gene-centric view of evolution have failed.

        The fact is that Gould was a Marxist. Not a Stalinist like his dad, but of the sort common in academia, where there is not only the “Critical” movement in law schools, but Marxist anthropology, sociology, economics, you name it.

        But if you want to believe in their evidence-free mumbo-jumbo, of course, you’re welcome.

        commieBob
        June 28, 2016 at 4:24 pm

        Yes, I was there when new species evolved in a single generation, or in 20 minutes in the case of microbes. I’ve made them myself. It happens all the time in nature and is easily reproduced in the lab.

        Many people labor under the misconception that evolution is always slow. It isn’t. Some 30 to 70% of plant species, for instance, arose in a single generation due to polyploidy, ie genome duplication.

        So, it is a fact, as stated. But as I also said, for the evolution of new taxa above genus, it’s usually slow. More so than Gould imagined.

      • Gabro,

        I cannot take your word as evidence of anything. I’ve found several peer reviewed, recent studies endorsing punctuation equilibrium as one of the methods of evolution, alongside phyletic graduation. It does not appear from those, and references from Berkeley and Harvard etc that PE theory has been “proven wrong”, or debunked.

        Please provide evidence other than your own opinion to support your claims. You know, like scientists are supposed to.

      • But the environment did gradually recover.

        Regardless of when the MEE ended, ie whether at c. 252 Ma or 251.5 Ma, it took a long time for the diversity of life to recover to its Permian level.

      • Gabro,
        The OP article is talking about TWO different events, and how fossils in sediment record how plant life responded to each one.

        The article is about the discovery of a prior UNKNOWN ECOLOGICAL upheaval that your linked report doesn’t cover because in 2012, it would have still been…unknown.

      • Arphan,

        The extinction of one variety of seed fern wasn’t unknown, as I pointed out. They were previously generally thought to have gone extinct at the P/T boundary.

        The issue is when that extinction occurred. Before this paper, some paleontologists had presented evidence of the survival of this group into the Triassic, but it wasn’t persuasive. These guys seem to have good evidence to that effect.

        All that means is that the Permian-Triassic extinction lasted 500K years longer than thought. It was previously thought rapid, as MEEs go.

      • Scientists NEVER recant the ideas that they based their whole life’s work on.

        Carl Sagan never obtained even one single binary b\digit of scientific evidence for intelligent life outside the earth’s livable shell. but he never stopped believing in it.

        G

  7. Mass extinction events ought to cause a spike in CO2. Even though some climate scientists get this round the wrong way and think the CO2 causes the extinction.

  8. What ever happened to the Great Oxygen Catastrophe (about 2.5 billion years ago) as an extinction event? I remember being taught that life nearly extinguished itself. This was during the era when photosynthesis first started and free oxygen transformed the chemistry of the air, oceans, and crust of the earth. About 2500 new minerals appeared and free oxygen was toxic to the anaerobic life forms which existed at that time. Was there some research I missed?

    • The Big Five mass extinction events refer only to those in the Phanerozoic Eon, ie the last 542 million years or so, consisting of the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras. The Oxygen Catastrophe was much earlier, in the Proterozoic Eon.

      Mass Extinction Event 1 was at the transition from the Ordovician to Silurian Periods, and MEE2 in the Late Devonian. MEE3, the Permian-Triassic “Mother of All Extinctions” or “Great Dying”, happened at the boundary between the Paleozoic and Mesozoic Eras. MEE4 occurred at the boundary between the Triassic and Jurassic Periods, and MEE5 at the Cretaceous-Paleogene and Mesozoic-Cenozoic transition.

    • There were at least one large extinction event just before the Cambrian, the end-Ediacaran Extinction Event (c. 542 MA) and there may have been one or two more mass extinctions earlier in the Proterozoic.

    • It depends on how you define event.
      An overnight party, a week long festival, a volcanic eruption lasting months.
      Depending on your favourite cause the Permian-Triassic extinction occurred over a period of between 8 thousand years and 20 million years [ a bit of wriggle room there]

      The Great Oxygen Catastrophe/Event is dated to about 2.4 billion years but probably took about 200 million years, however there was a 1000 million year build up to it. And probably very few organisms actually became extinct although they no longer prospered. The anaerobic bacteria that had previously dominated survived below the oxygenated zones, in deep sea muds and in fractures in rocks

      • The authors of the study clarify they are talking about two different events, not one long one as Gabro insists.

        “Researchers from the Institute and Museum of Paleontology at the University of Zurich have now discovered another previously unknown ecological crisis on a similar scale in the Lower Triassic. The team headed by Peter A. Hochuli and Hugo Bucher revealed that another event altered the vegetation fundamentally and for longer approximately 500,000 years after the major natural disaster at the boundary between the Permian and the Triassic.”

        The study does not even hint that they view the second event as a mere continuing, or expansion of, the first event. They specifically mention that the fauna destroyed during the first event, had recovered in just a few millennia, and wasn’t catastrophically affected until the second crisis 500,000 years later. The authors get to decide what they are talking about, not Gabro.

      • Aphan,

        The authors may view the seed fern extinction as a separate extinction event, but it’s part of the Permian mass extinction event, whether they want to look at it like that or not.

        Maybe they want to increase its significance. But again, science has long known that these seed ferns went extinct in the latest Permian or earliest Triassic. That’s not a discovery. The only issue is when. If it were 500,000 years after the main pulse of the P/T MEE, it’s still just another extinction among the many during the MEE.

      • Gabro,

        It’s not just about the extinction of a seed fern! It’s about recovered floras AFTER the PT extinction…and THEN a second event devastating the floras permanently, and causing not only a plant turnover, but a total climate turnover from cold and dry to warm and moist within 1,000 years time! It’s a study that changes the “General belief” about a protracted recovery following the PTEE!

        (Abstract-bold mine)

        “Generally Early Triassic floras are believed to be depauperate, suffering from protracted recovery following the Permian–Triassic extinction event. Here we present palynological data of an expanded East Greenland section documenting recovered floras in the basal Triassic (Griesbachian) and a subsequent fundamental floral turnover, postdating the Permian–Triassic boundary extinction by about 500 kyrs. This event is marked by a swap in dominating floral elements, changing from gymnosperm pollen-dominated associations in the Griesbachian to lycopsid spore-dominated assemblages in the Dienerian. This turnover coincides with an extreme δ13Corg negative shift revealing a severe environmental crisis, probably induced by volcanic outbursts of the Siberian Traps, accompanied by a climatic turnover, changing from cool and dry in the Griesbachian to hot and humid in the Dienerian. Estimates of sedimentation rates suggest that this environmental alteration took place within some 1000 years. Similar, coeval changes documented on the North Indian Margin (Pakistan) and the Bowen Basin (Australia) indicate the global extent of this crisis. Our results evidence the first profound disruption of the recovery of terrestrial environments about 500kyrs after the Permian–Triassic extinction event. It was followed by another crisis, about 1myrs later thus, the Early Triassic can be characterised as a time of successive environmental crises.”

  9. The more we know about the paleo record, the more extinction events we found. Life is hazardous on this planet.

    I may be wrong, but it seems to me that most extinction events are due to huge volcanic traps going off producing volcanic winter, acid rain, sulfuric acidification of the oceans, and messing pretty much everything. The increase in CO2 is probably only a bonus of difficult interpretation.

    • Javier,

      The medical community has a word that defines a situation in which two chronic conditions exist in a patient at the same time. It’s called “comorbidity”. The two conditions may be related OR occur simultaneously but independently of each other.

      I wish the “climate science” community would propose and adopt a similar word that could be employed immediately and easily because “correlation is not causation” ….even if the correlation is perfect…seems too be too hard for one side of the climate debate to grasp, remember, understand, employ, etc . :)

      • This is a good way to look at MEEs.

        Even in the clear cut case of the K/T (dinosaur) extinction, causes in addition to the Yucatan impact are still cited, to include the Deccan Traps volcanism, when the Indian Plate was passing over the Reunion Island Hotspot (which just happens to lie near antipode of Yucatan).

        The Ordivician/Silurian MEE is associated with an ice age, but other causes have been suggested, some pretty out of this world, literally.

        The Devonian MEE hasn’t been adequately explained, although there are viable hypotheses. One of which, regrettably, focuses on CO2.

        The Permian/Triassic MOAEE remains mysterious, but a mix of causes has been suggested, to include the Siberian Traps massive flood volcanic eruption, itself possibly caused by an impact.

        The Triassic/Jurassic MEE has been fairly convincingly connected to volcanism associated with the initial breakup of Pangaea.

  10. This whole story is rather fishy. It has “always” been known that the P/T extinction was extremely severe for plants as well as animals, and that it took many million years for the vegetation to recover, and it was considerably different when it did. This is known as the “coal gap”. Nothing new there.

    What is new is that they claim that the extinction in the ocean happened slightly before the plant extinction (yes, 500,000 years is “slightly” in geological terms), in fact that there were two (or three) major extinction events close together.
    Now I’m not completely convinced by their arguments, correlating terrestrial and marine deposits this closely is tricky, and a lot seems to depend on the time-range of a single ammonoid species. Similar arguments that the K/T (K/Pg) extinction occurred 300,000 years before the Chicxulub impact have proven fallacious.

    What one would like to see is one continuous profile that shows both (or all three) extinction events in superposition, but it doesn’t seem that there is one.

    And as for when the extinction of land animals occurred (if there was more than one extinction event), it is anybody’s guess. It is not that closely dated. In the Karoo the extinction seems to occur simultaneously with a big change in sedimentation which has been connected with large-scale vegetation die-off which might coincide with their “second extinction”.

    • You’re right.

      The only thing new here is that the seed fern extinction is dated a little later. Many MEEs last hundreds of thousands of years and come in waves.

      Evidence of seed ferns in the Induan Age of the Early Triassic Epoch has been cited before, but found wanting. This looks pretty persuasive, however.

  11. The Siberian Traps volcanoes, the largest known about it in Earth history, lasted a few million years including before and after the Permian Extinction event.

    The peak of the volcanic activity occurred at the Extinction but there were other episodes in those few million years before and after which would have been equally hellish.

    Think – Yellowstone times 4,000. Think – the atmosphere may not have even been breathable for complex life-forms. Think – ocean chemistry completely changed leading to a loss of most ocean organisms as well.

    Think – really bad day. Think- really bad million years.

    • Yes, something like 6 million cubic kilometers of lava erupted in a few million years, but probably not continuously, but in episodes.
      And it erupted through what is probably the biggest coalfield on the planet, so it also created huge amounts of poisonous hydrocarbons. A sort of natural coking plant the size of Australia.

    • The coal fields explanation is just another one of those myths that climate science creates and continues to spread around.

      The time coal could have been formed in this area in the Carboniferous 360-300 million years ago or before the Traps volcanoes, the area of Siberia was at the North Pole and thus probably did not form any coal.

      Climate Science Myth.

      • The Siberian Traps erupted through the Tunguska basin which contains huge volumes of volatile-rich rocks (shales, coal and evaporites) from the Cambrian through the Permian. There are large numbers of feeder dykes and sills. At the southern end they also overlap slightly with the Kuznetsk basin (Kuzbass).
        Incidentally this is unique since Large Igneous Provinces (LIP) almost always occur at basement highs (in accordance with Kloos’ calassical triad “Hebung-Spaltung-Vulkanismus”).

    • Should have added that the only evidence for coal beds was some fly ash found in Canada.

  12. Ah, the original “settled science”

    “There have been several mass extinctions in the history of the earth. One of the largest known disasters occurred around 252 million years ago at the boundary between the Permian and the Triassic. Almost all sea-dwelling species and two thirds of all reptiles and amphibians died out. Although there were also brief declines in diversity in the plant world, they recovered in the space of a few thousand years, which meant that similar conditions to before prevailed again.”

    Please note the total lack of “skepticism” in the language use. Not; *There are thought to have been several mass extinctions in the history of the earth*, or some such “hat tip” to the FACT that this is all speculative, and nobody actually observed any of it. In “climate science” talk-talk, folks around here notice such things . . but not in “deep-time science” talk-talk. There’s some skepticism about which of the many “deep-time” interpretation of what is actually observed (in the present) occurs, but none at all (that I can detect), in terms of the potential that it’s similar to “climate science” speculative . . crapola.

    Please realize, without the “deep-time” assumption, the catastrophic “climate change” assumption would be impossible to “sell”. All the apparent (caoshic) order in the earth’s climate systems would be utterly expected in a Created world . . so it is utterly expectable (to me) that the very same “science/media” conglomeration that treats CAGW as “settled science”, would also treat “non-created world science” in the same way.

    Consider please, the discovery of few years ago, of “soft tissue” in dinosaur remains . . Now, I, as a believer from my youth in the “Evolution” story of origins, knew that was utterly impossible, as the initial response to the discovery reflected quite clearly . . and quite literally. It’s several orders of magnitude outside the realm of possibility, considering what can be observed of the stability of such tissues in various ways . . But it has been confirmed, many times now. Here’s a more recent statement from the original discoverer;

    http://www.livescience.com/41537-t-rex-soft-tissue.html

    ‘Controversial T. Rex Soft Tissue Find Finally Explained’

    “The researchers also analyzed other fossils for the presence of soft tissue, and found it was present in about half of their samples going back to the Jurassic Period, which lasted from 145.5 million to 199.6 million years ago, Schweitzer said.” . .

    But not to worry, deep-time settled scientists, the problem is . . shrinking;

    “They then tested the iron-as-preservative idea using modern ostrich blood vessels. They soaked one group of blood vessels in iron-rich liquid made of red blood cells and another group in water. The blood vessels left in water turned into a disgusting mess within days. The blood vessels soaked in red blood cells remain recognizable after sitting at room temperature for two years.”

    Wow, two whole years . . and still recognizable. Nothing to see here folks . .

    • Mass extinction events are not speculative in the least little bit. They are scientific facts, ie derived from observation. There is a background rate of extinction, plus occasional intervals of higher levels. The vast majority of species ever to exist have gone extinct. Eventually they all do, or evolve into something else.

      Deep time is also a fact, based upon observations.

      That soft tissue can be preserved in fossils says nothing at all about the fact of deep time. It just says that the fossilization process isn’t fully understood, which we already knew.

      • PS,

        ” The vast majority of species ever to exist have gone extinct.”

        Can we see a list, or some such thing, please?

      • News flash!

        The universe is observable, to include its age. Same goes for the earth.

        The only “faith”, ie an assumption, involved is that radioactive decay rates haven’t changed. But the radiometric age of the earth is the same as derived from other methods, such as the age of the sun derived from its physics.

        The time of the extinction event that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs and lots of other living things is similarly robust, based upon all available dating methods.

        Sorry, all you have is faith in a book which has been repeatedly shown false on scientific issue after issue. Which is not surprising, since the Bible is a collection of pre-scientific texts.

      • John,

        Few of the species ever to exist have names.

        But for starters, how about just non-avian dinosaurs, of which only a fraction of genera have been found? All are now extinct, but they lived from about 235 million years ago to 65 Ma.

        http://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/dino-directory/name/a/gallery.html

        There were a lot more of them than of the bird genera to have evolved since the K/T extinction, let alone those alive now. So this one lineage shows how extinct genera outnumber extant ones.

      • Of course the universe is observable . . but I don’t see any list, or whatever.

        Last I heard, there are approximately one quarter as many classified species that are thought to be extinct, as classified species known to exist. Perhaps I’ve go that wrong, but if not, that would render the vast majority of your believed-in total species ever . . unobserved.

      • I should add that a great many bird species and genera also went extinct during the Cretaceous. Dinosaurs that would qualify as birds to most people existed longer during the Cretaceous (c. 145.5 to 65.5 Ma) than they have in the Cenozoic.

      • “… during the Cretaceous (c. 145.5 to 65.5 Ma)…”

        Now where have I seen such amazing “precision” in such a difficult to be certain of measurements before? . . No error bars, no mention of any assumptions . .

    • John,

      Extinct species are a fact, not a belief. No one knows the exact number, but they greatly exceed the total now living. It’s a simple calculation based upon observation of extant organisms, fossils and genetic mutation rates.

      • Well of course extinct species are a fact, since they are observable in the fossil record . . but I am (fool that I am ; ) in the habit of not assuming that what some imagine must have existed, existed, based on those imaginings only . . We used to call it scientific thinking, back in the day, before “consensus science” was taken to be Gospel, so to speak.

      • John,

        The fossil record shows that far more animal species have lived and gone in the past 700 million years than are alive now.

        If you practiced “scientific thinking”, you’d know that you need actual evidence, that is observation, ie facts, in order to form hypotheses. Yet you entertain not just the hypothesis of a global flood 4500 years ago, but, contrary to all evidence, believe such a thing happened.

        As I tried to help you understand, a global flood that recently would leave evidence everywhere, yet none is found anywhere.

      • “The fossil record shows that far more animal species have lived and gone in the past 700 million years than are alive now.”

        So you believe, but I want to know what has actually been observed, which, whether your religion accepts it or not, is what I consider factual, rather than “modeled” in some way . . . Same approach I take to “climate science” assertions/visions etc.

        My point is, this ain’t consensus science’s first rodeo. My point is, you (here) have no more logical grounds upon which to “deny” the CAGW “settled science” we are being accosted and accused with as we speak, than I have for doubting “deep time” science. It’s models all the way down, kids . .

      • The fact that far more species are extinct that living is not consensus or modeled. It’s observed and calculated based upon those observations of living species and fossil forms.

        I have no religion. You clearly do, believing in supernatural spirits without evidence and imaginary events for which there is no evidence.

        An animal species today exists for on average about two million years. There are three to 30 million animal species now. That’s on the order of ten million, which is close enough. Thus, in 700 million years, on the order one to ten billion animal species have existed. Hence, about 99% extinct even at the lower estimate.

      • JohnKnight,

        He doesn’t get it. :) You are asking for proof, evidence that a certain number of animal species have actually lived on this planet before going extinct. He’s responding with calculations…not evidence. Right?

        “An animal species today exists for on average about two million years. There are three to 30 million animal species now. That’s on the order of ten million, which is close enough. Thus, in 700 million years, on the order one to ten billion animal species have existed. Hence, about 99% extinct even at the lower estimate.”

        One to ten billion….no small margin between those two numbers huh? And calculated based on the incredibly precise “estimate” of 3-30 million animal species that exist today!

        Extinct species are a FACT. The number of extinct species is a GUESS…or enormously large margin of error calculation. But he has “faith” in those guesses/calculations. He also seems to have faith that his opinion of Gould’s theory is shared by the entire scientific community, but has not provided supporting evidence for that either.

    • “Now, I, as a believer from my youth in the “Evolution” story of origins, knew that was utterly impossible”

      Preservation of soft parts is uncommon, but by no means impossible. Please Google “Konservat-lagerstätte”

      • tty,

        Sorry to be argumentative, but that is circular logic you are using. IF we assume those fossils are hundreds of millions of years old, they demonstrate it is possible . . If we don’t, they don’t . .

  13. JohnKnight June 28, 2016 at 5:28 pm
    PS,

    ” The vast majority of species ever to exist have gone extinct.”

    Can we see a list, or some such thing, please?

    Just got it off my bookshelf……
    My old textbook …… “Invertebrate Fossils” by Moore, Lalicker and Fischer, published 1952.
    That’s a pretty good list of creatures that no longer exist.
    Then there are vertebrates and plants……..

    • As well as microbes, fungi and animals that aren’t invertebrates but also are or were not yet quite vertebrates.

    • Well, I’m interested in the total numbers actually observed, since I was told (as a matter of fact) that the vast majority are now extinct.

      • Most eukaryotic species haven’t been discovered yet. The latest best estimate of the number known is 7.4 to ten million:

        http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110823/full/news.2011.498.html

        The number of prokaryotic species is even less well known.

        Yet it is a fact that far more species have gone extinct than live in the present tiny blink of a geological eye. The best estimate of the share having gone extinct is over 99%, amounting to over five billion species.

      • Gabro has assumed you are religious, based soley on what you’ve posted in this thread. It escapes him that you never declared that you were, and us regulars are chuckling because we know where you stand. Interestingly, he is professing belief in the life and death of beings (species) for which there is no empirical evidence of their existence. Belief in something there is no evidence for=faith.

        He’s missing all your delicious irony, so I thought I’d help you out…:)

      • PS, However, this is not what faith means; Belief in something there is no evidence for . . according to my dictionaries . . Perhaps if you had said ‘proof’, I could have kept my mouth shut ; )

      • JohnKnight-

        It appears that in order to be in agreement, you and I need to agree upon a more finely nuanced, and perhaps even out-of-the-ordinary definition of what “faith” is then, because my dictionaries appear to be written differently than yours. Mine define “proof” and “evidence” thusly:

        proof- “evidence or argument establishing or helping to establish a fact or the truth of a statement.
        “you will be asked to give proof of your identity”
        synonyms: evidence, verification, corroboration, authentication, confirmation, certification, documentation, validation, attestation, substantiation

        evidence- the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid. “the study finds little evidence of overt discrimination”
        synonyms: proof confirmation, verification, substantiation, corroboration, affirmation, attestation

        So when I defined faith as “belief in something there is no evidence for”, I assumed (obviously wrongly) that you understood and accepted the words “evidence” and “proof” as synonyms and that I was essentially saying the same thing using either word.

        Hence when I suggested that Gabro has “faith” in the number of extinctions he states have occurred, I am saying that he believes in something for which there is no evidence, verification, confirmation, or proof…that establishes, or helps to establish, those calculations as a fact or the truth.

        :)

      • Aphan,

        My “bitch” has to do with what to me is essentially a silly notion, that anyone believes anything without some sort of evidence that it is so. I don’t consider the sort of faith Gabro exhibits here as faith based no evidence at all . .

      • “exhibits here as faith based no evidence at all . ”

        ????

        Dictionaries do not define faith as merely a religious word. And proof and evidence are synonyms. So if YOU personally define any of those words differently, then just say so.

        This is not a religious blog, so how you discuss the Bible elsewhere, or where WUWT ranks in order of seriousness is irrelevant

      • Proof and evidence are NOT synonyms.

        Evidence merely points to some plausible scenario. Proof whenever possible, implies NO alternative scenario can be true.

        G

        Or something close to that. Do not use these OOMs in your PhD theses.

      • Aphan,

        ““exhibits here as faith based no evidence at all . ”

        ????”

        Sorry, I left out the ‘on’; I don’t consider the sort of faith Gabro exhibits here as faith based on no evidence at all.

        “Dictionaries do not define faith as merely a religious word.”

        I Never said they did. ????

        “: And proof and evidence are synonyms.”

        Only in some usages/senses of the words . . I knew that when I was ten, tops . . and am somewhat surprised you don’t . . get that, apparently . .

        “So if YOU personally define any of those words differently, then just say so.”

        ????

        “This is not a religious blog, so how you discuss the Bible elsewhere, or where WUWT ranks in order of seriousness is irrelevant”

        ????

        It seems to me you have a bit of control freak problem, sir.

      • “It seems to me you have a bit of control freak problem, sir.”

        You’re the one who said that if I’d used the word “proof” instead of “evidence” you “could have kept your mouth shut “, but I’m the one with the “control freak problem”?

        John Knight Bible-1st Ironicals Chapter 1:1 “Yea, and he did quibble over semantics, and boast in his own wisdom, while at the same time addressing a woman, who had oft made known her gender, as “Sir”, in order that he might cast aspersions on her whilst suffering a beam in his own eye that was like unto the great Cedars of Lebanon.”

        :P

      • “Proof and evidence are NOT synonyms.”

        According to you. I suggest you take it up with every dictionary and thesaurus publisher in the world. Let me know how it goes.

      • Evidence is synonymous with proof (as I’ve heard humans use the terms for about sixty years) somewhat like weight is synonymous to tonnage.

        To say something is proof, carries more weight (in, casual usage), than saying something is evidence, to me. It never crossed my mind that using them in the context I did, in juxtapositional contrast, could/would be seen as anything more than suggesting “weighty evidence”.

      • Aphan,

        “You’re the one who said that if I’d used the word “proof” instead of “evidence” you “could have kept your mouth shut “, but I’m the one with the “control freak problem”?”

        Yeah . . what the hell does telling someone (in effect) that their definition of faith seems too exclusive, have to do with being control freaky? That’s how it seemed to me, and I tried to tell you that . . in a jovial sort of way. I said nor implied in any way (that i am/was aware of) that you ought not be allowed to say what you did, here . .

        I was expressing my slight sense of “foreboding” in questioning what seemed to me to be a form of “religious” belief of yours, regarding what faith is. A kind of “doctrinal” extremism/puritanism I often observe among some in the sciency clan these days, involving faith being seen as something to be driven out of our thinking . . rather than it being something mundane and in use (of necessity) in any complex thinking about scientific matters . . one cannot even speak of “natural laws” or “constants” without employing faith, for goodness sake . .

      • JohnKnight
        “I said nor implied in any way (that i am/was aware of) that you ought not be allowed to say what you did, here . .”

        I never said or implied that you did. So why even say that?

        “Yeah . . what the hell does telling someone (in effect) that their definition of faith seems too exclusive, have to do with being control freaky? That’s how it seemed to me, and I tried to tell you that . . ”

        Maybe you should review the thread. I actually STATED, outright, not “in effect” that YOU seemed to require a more “nuanced’ definition of faith (nuanced-exact, particular, extremely accurate) than I did. I pointed out that “proof” and “evidence” are synonyms, along with all the other words I included under “synonyms” (when I cut and pasted them directly from an actual dictionary) so obviously my definition of faith would be INCLUSIVE of all of those terms. I was the opposite of extreme or puritanical or exclusive. Your insistence however that the definition required only the term “proof” instead of any other is by definition-EXCLUSIVE- making you the exacting,nitpicky,control freak of the two of us.

        Your “foreboding” / personal bias caused you to make incorrect assumptions about what I believe or think, when simply ASKING me would have prevented it. Your willingness to stereotype me, (scientific word) and condemn me (Bible term) without any facts or authority to do so, shows disregard for the proper methodologies of both Science and Religion, as well as Logic and reason.

      • A parable about evidence and proof, if I may ; )

        A man (call him Jack, for the sake of continuity ; ) is sitting in his living room one fine day, wondering about the potential that God exists. Jack asks;

        *God, if you can hear me asking, I’d like to know that . . but I can’t accept such a radical idea . . so, please give me sign or something, if you want me to.*

        A ten pound stone suddenly appears at Jack’s feet. He is shocked, and he leans over to take up the stone and heft it, examine it, wonder at it . .

        I say; Jack is holding ten pounds of rock solid evidence in his hand, that God did as he had asked of Him . . but he hasn’t got an ounce of proof ; )

      • Jack has a rock he didn’t have before. He has neither evidence or proof that “God” caused the rock to appear. He has no evidence or proof that the sudden appearance of the rock was a direct response to his personal request. All Jack knows is that he asked God something, and a rock appeared. Choosing to believe that the two are related is a matter of faith. :)

        Correlation does not equal causation in science or religion.

      • PS,

        “Belief in something there is no evidence for=faith.”

        I tried to find that definition, and saw a couple that used the term ‘proof’ in a similar fashion, but none that used the term ‘evidence’ . . Is it possible to your mind, that you were simply incorrect?

      • JohnKnight-

        “I don’t agree”.

        You don’t have to.

        “I tried to find that definition, and saw a couple that used the term ‘proof’ in a similar fashion, but none that used the term ‘evidence’ . . Is it possible to your mind, that you were simply incorrect?”

        It’s always possible to my mind that I am incorrect. In this particular instance, my correctness or incorrectness was of such trivial import that even your first response to it seemed sort of “odd”. From then on, it has just been fascinating to watch your determined and ongoing attention to such an inconsequential statement. Is it possible to your mind, that the trivial issue that prompted this discussion, plus your inability to “let it go”, along with the illogical responses I pointed out along the way, are highly indicative of an obsessive need/desire for control and/or dominance?

      • Ahpan,

        I am now convinced you are a whingy manipulative control freak, ma’am. Congratulations ; )

  14. If one looks at the fossil record isn’t a bit incomplete? Like drawing speculative conclusions about a jigsaw puzzle where you have been allowed to study one in a billion pieces scattered over a billion years and it seems that sometimes those pieces are clumped together in space and time.

  15. Gabro says:
    “Sorry, all you have is faith in a book which has been repeatedly shown false on scientific issue after issue. Which is not surprising, since the Bible is a collection of pre-scientific texts.”

    This raises a couple questions.

    First: If the Bible includes the first documented utilization of controlled trials, then how is it pre-scientific rather than proto-scientific?

    Next: what is a “scientific” issue? What makes an issue “scientific?”

    Next: on what issues has the Bible been shown to be false? And, in this estimation of the ridiculousness in Biblical faith, does this account for the issues for which the Bible is true?

    Just wondering.

    • The Last Democrat-
      Great questions. I wonder if Gabro will answer them…

      It raised another question for me…like why did he make a statement about JohnKnight believing in a book (the Bible) when he has zero evidence that JohnKnight actually believes in that book? It’s unscientific to make declarative statements about things, even people, without supporting evidence.

      SCIENCE- “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
      “the world of science and technology”
      synonyms: branch of knowledge, body of knowledge/information, area of study, discipline, field
      “the science of criminology”
      a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.”

      Does the Bible not qualify as a “body of knowledge/information”, systematically organized on a particular subject?

    • Aphan,

      “…like why did he make a statement about JohnKnight believing in a book (the Bible) when he has zero evidence that JohnKnight actually believes in that book?”

      I told him (indicated as much anyway) on a previous comment thread.

      “Does the Bible not qualify as a “body of knowledge/information”, systematically organized on a particular subject?”

      Sure . . and on other sites you could have seen me (and others) getting deep into the Texts . . I take it far more seriously that this joint ; )

  16. What’s an “upheaval” (in vegetation) and what’s an “actual upheaval” (in vegetation)?

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