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AROUND 251 million years ago, over 90 per cent of the species on Earth suddenly went extinct. Their killer may not have been a devastating meteorite or a catastrophic volcanic eruption, but a humble microbe.
The prevailing theory is that the mass extinction at the end of the Permian period was triggered by volcanic eruptions over a vast area of what is now Siberia. This led, among other things, to a dramatic rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
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