Permian Mass Extinction Was Led By a Microbe: Research

Science & Technology Current Affairs December 2012. A microbe led to extinction of more than 90 species on Earth’s surface around 251 million years ago, the researchers found out in the second week of December 2012

Created On: Dec 17, 2012 15:17 IST

A microbe led to extinction of more than 90 species on Earth’s surface around 251 million years ago, the researchers found out in the second week of December 2012. The mass extinction did not take place due to catastrophic volcano or meteorite, but because of a microbe.

According to the current theory, mass extinction by end of Permian period was started because of volcanic eruptions on a large area, now called Siberia. This in turn led to a dramatic increase in the emission of greenhouse gases. But a researcher from Massachusetts Institute of Technology believes that the scenario doesn’t align with the facts. An analysis of the end-Permian sediment sample from China was conducted and it was found that carbon levels had rushed too fast for geological processes to begin. Microbes could generate equally fast carbon compounds.

When the group of researchers analysed genome of Methanosarcina - a methanogen which is accountable for most of the biogenic methane on Earth today, it was discovered that microbe acquired this ability some 231 million years ago. This date matched closer to the time when mass extinction took place. However, the link could still not be suggested.

Methanosarcina needs huge amount of nickel for producing methane fast. On going back to sediment cores, the researchers discovered that the level of nickel prickled exactly 251 million years. This might have happened because the Siberian lavas had nickel in large quantities.  This in turn reinforced the fact that Methanosarcina triggered mass extinction.
It is important to note that the mass extinction of biodiversity of today’s time is quite identical since it is mainly determined by our species.

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