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The Great Dying Extinction Event - Siberian Traps Slab

The Great Dying Extinction Event - Siberian Traps Slab

Our planet has gone through many different cycles of life and death over the last 4.5 billion years, from the rise and long-lasting reign of the dinosaurs to the endless variations of tiny cyanobacteria stretching back billions of years. While the fossil record holds a picture of many dramatic events, nothing quite compares to the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event, known as "The Great Dying."

Above: While there have been numerous extinction events scattered across time, the chart to the left highlights the "Big Five" events as well as a number of smaller events that have occurred in between: Ordovician–Silurian(441,000,000), Late Devonian (359,000,000), Permian–Triassic (252,000,000), Triassic–Jurassic (201,000,000), Cretaceous–Paleogene (66,000,000).

This specimen is a basalt slab from the Kuznetsk Basin in southwestern Siberia. The Kuznetsk Basin is also home to one of the largest coal deposits on earth, a remnant of the global destruction caused by the Siberian Traps during the greatest extinction event in the history of the planet.

The specimen comes inside a classic, glass-topped riker display case measuring 4 1/2" x 3 1/2". A small information card is also enclosed.

Please Note: Specimens vary in shape and thickness. This material is very dense and difficult to cut, but we generally aim for a 1 x 1" (2.5 x 2.5 cm) mini-slab. Some edges will be smooth and others will be sharp so do take care when handling this specimen. 

More About The Great Dying

""La vie a souvent été troublée sur cette terre par des événemens effroyables."

"Life has often been disturbed on this earth by frightful events."

~ Georges Cuvier, Discours sur les révolutions de la surface du globe (1822)

Known as "The Great Dying," the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event is the largest extinction event in the history of the planet. While studies point to several factors, the chief catalyst of this extinction event is a series of massive volcanic eruptions known as the Siberian Traps.

Over the course of 1,000,000 years, these flood basalt eruptions covered over 7 million square kilometers (2,700,000 square miles) with as much as 4 million cubic kilometers of lava (~1,000,000 cubic miles). Carbon dioxide and methane releases triggered by the Siberian Traps caused runaway global warming, driving ocean temperatures to exceed 40C (104F) and killing nearly 95% of life on Earth.

Nickel released by the Siberian Traps triggered marine bacteria to produce massive amounts of methane. Combined with an injection of carbon dioxide and sulfate aerosols, runaway global warming pushed ocean temperatures over 40C (104F).

Such devastation on land and sea is unequaled in the fossil record. Nearly 95% of all life perished, and most studies indicate life took millions of years to rebound. As life returned, new species rose to the top. The Synapsids (mammal-like reptiles such as Dimetrodon) were replaced by Archosaurs. The Archosaurs descendants included birds, crocodilians, pterosaurs, and of course dinosaurs.

Above: The rugged terrain of Putorana Plateau on the Taymyr Peninsula in Siberia, Russia is completely formed from the remains of the Siberian Traps. It lies more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) away from the Kuznetsk Basin giving some sense to the massive scale of this formation.

Further Reading

Davies, Clare, Mark B. Allen, Misha M. Buslov and Inna Safonova. "Deposition in the Kuznetsk Basin, Siberia : insights into the Permian-Triassic transition and the Mesozoic evolution of Central Asia." Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 295.1 (2010): 307-322. Web. 13 March 2018.

Kolbert, Elizabeth. The sixth extinction: An unnatural history. A&C Black, 2014.

Hallam, Tony. Catastrophes and Lesser Calamities : The Causes of Mass Extinctions. Oxford University Press, 2005. Web. 13 March 2018.

Saunders, Andy and Marc Reichow. "The Siberian Traps and the End-Permian mass extinction: a critical review." Chinese Science Bulletin 54.1 (2009): 20-37. Web. 13 March 2018.

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