Extinction

Some 250 million years ago, the earth suffered the greatest biological crisis in its history. Around 95 percent of all living species died out – a global catastrophe far greater than the extinction of dinosaurs 185 million years later. Scientists are slowly working out how this happened and there are many competing theories. Some blame huge volcanic eruptions that covered an area as large as the continental United States; others argue for sudden changes in ocean levels and chemistry, including burps of methane gas; and still others cite the impact of an extraterrestrial object, similar to that which did for the dinosaurs.

 

Extinction:¬†How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago by Douglas H. Erwin¬†is a palaeontological detective story. Here, the world’s foremost authority on the subject provides a fascinating overview of the evidence for and against a whole host of hypotheses concerning this cataclysmic event that unfolded at the end of the Permian era.

 

After setting the scene, Erwin introduces the suite of possible explanations and the types of evidence palaeontologists seek. He then unveils the actual evidence starting with China where much of the best evidence is found. He discusses evidence for extinction in the oceans, and then the extraordinary fossil animals of the Karoo Desert of South Africa. Reviewing each hypothesis in turn the author presents his own theory. Although full recovery took tens of millions of years, this most massive of mass extinctions was a powerful creative force, because it set the stage for the development of the world as we know it today. Well, we would welcome the advent of our own existence, wouldn’t we?

 

Douglas H. Erwin¬†is senior scientist and curator in the Department of Paleobiology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. He began researching the end-Permian mass extinction in the early 1980s and has travelled many times to China, South Africa, and Europe seeking its causes.

 

Check if this excellent popular science book is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at https://www.sllclibrary.co.uk/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/OPAC/BSEARCH

 

 

320 pages in Princeton University Press

First published 2006

ISBN  978-0691165653

 

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Douglas H. Erwin

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