Ocean Acidification Led to History’s Greatest Extinction

Written by on April 20, 2015 in Other News, Physical Oceanography

A new study shows volcanic activity caused changes to the oceans that led to the greatest extinction in history.

Filter feeders, like crinoids, were less abundant after this extinction.  Photo credit: Vassil - Alias Collections, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Filter feeders, like crinoids, were less abundant after this extinction. Photo credit: Vassil – Alias Collections, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Volcanic activity that occurred 252 million years ago caused changes in Earth’s oceans that wiped out more than 90 percent of marine species and more than two thirds of land animals. The oceans absorbed huge amounts of carbon dioxide following the eruptions, making the water much more acidic.

This is the first study to show that ocean acidification was the cause of the Permian-Triassic Boundary extinction. The findings will help scientists better understand the current threats to marine life as a result of increasingly acidic oceans.

This extinction took place over a 60,000 year period. Acidification of the oceans lasted for around 10,000 years, driving the deadliest phase of the extinction.

“Scientists have long suspected that an ocean acidification event occurred during the greatest mass extinction of all time, but direct evidence has been lacking until now,” Dr. Matthew Clarkson of University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoScience explained in a news release. “This is a worrying finding, considering that we can already see an increase in ocean acidity today that is the result of human carbon emissions.”

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Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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