Mass Extinctions Might Come From Below

New research ties mass extinctions to the rocks beneath our feet.

RELATED TAGS: ECOLOGY, EARTH SCIENCE
DSC-CR0318_02

The Transantarctic Mountains split our planet’s southernmost continent into east and west, at times rising more than 14,000 feet high. Today, it’s a barren landscape of inhospitable rock and ice. But for the scientists who hike and camp this rocky spine, it’s also a portal to another Earth.

Park University paleobotanist Patty Ryberg and her colleagues are uncovering the fossilized remains of a lush forest that thrived in the Antarctic Circle some 260 million years ago during the Permian period. One type of tree, called glossopterids, dominated much of a supercontinent. Then they vanished in a geological instant.

The glossopterids didn’t die alone. About 90 percent of life on Earth was snuffed out in our planet’s biggest known extinction, called the Great Dying. What killed everything?

Enter your email address for instant access!

By signing up you will also receive Discover's free e-newsletter and occasional special offers. We will not sell or distribute your email address to any third party at any time.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
DSC-CV0318web
+