Researchers unearth ‘new’ extinction

The Extinction Chronicles

A team of scientists has concluded that earth experienced a previously underestimated severe mass-extinction event, which occurred about 260 million years ago, raising the total of major mass extinctions in the geologic record to six.

“It is crucial that we know the number of severe mass extinctions and their timing in order to investigate their causes,” explains Michael Rampino, a professor in New York University’s Department of Biology and a co-author of the analysis, which appears in the journal Historical Biology. “Notably, all six major mass extinctions are correlated with devastating environmental upheavals—specifically, massive flood-basalt eruptions, each covering more than a million square kilometers with thick lava flows.”

Scientists had previously determined that there were five major mass-extinction events, wiping out large numbers of species and defining the ends of geological periods: the end of the Ordovician (443 million…

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