The End-Permian Mass Extinction: Nature’s Revolution

Massimo Delfino, Evelyn Kustatscher, Fabrizio Lavezzi, Massimo Bernardi

Several localities around the world expose successions of rocks that straddle the Permian–Triassic boundary documenting a common pattern of environmental change. This change testifies to a large-scale event that led to the extinction of a significant portion of biodiversity, the most severe mass extinction of all times. This event is called the End-Permian Mass Extinction (EPME) or the Permian–Triassic Mass Extinction and was likely triggered by extensive volcanism. It not only affected the biodiversity of the marine realm, but also the terrestrial environments where faunas showed a marked reduction in diversity, whereas evidence for a mass extinction among plants is less robust. Even if the synchronicity of the extinctions in terrestrial and marine environments is still controversial, it seems clear that the event itself was rather fast, and that it took several million years for life to recover completely from the crisis. In fact, it seems likely that massive volcanic eruptions not only caused a chain of reactions that led to the extinction but also hindered the recovery of most of the surviving taxa. The EPME changed life forever, and the following recovery saw the evolution and radiation of many modern taxa that still characterize our planet today.

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