‘The Great Dying’: What was the Earth’s deadliest mass extinction so disastrous?



Study: Volcanic activity led to the ‘Great Death’ 252 million years ago

New research helps to reinforce the belief that the ‘Big Death’ was caused by the volcanic activity that formed the Siberian Traps.

About 252 million years ago, the Earth’s most severe extinction incident wiped out all living creatures on the planet, but scientists have always wondered what this event so seriously.

The Permian-Triassic extinction event, known as the Great Dying, killed 96 percent of all marine species and 73 percent of the terrestrial vertebrate species.

Research published on Monday in Nature Geoscience found that volcanic activity in the Siberian Traps in northern Russia was one of the main reasons of the event.

Michael Bradley, a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Petrographic and Geochemical Research in France, presented detailed estimates of halogen abundance in the Earth the earth’s crust, known as lithosphere, before and after the mass extinction.


“The eruption of halogens in the stratosphere catalyzes the ozone-destroying reactions, the increase of the surface levels of biologically harmful UV-radiation,” the authors wrote in the newspaper. This can be a chain reaction that would have liberated large amounts of halogens and other volatiles to the atmosphere to contribute to the species decline and extinction during the end-Permian crisis.”

This halogen-rich plumes are just one piece of the mysterious puzzle of the factors that determined how bad the Big Die eventually, but if people work to better understand their impact on climate change now, it is worth looking back to the past.

Christopher Carbone is a reporter and news editor covering science and technology for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.

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