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December 14 2012

Permian mass extinction triggered by humble microbe


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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