|Why Bivalves Ruled The World|
the worst mass extinction of life in Earth’s history
– 252 million years ago – ocean life was diverse
and clam-like organisms called brachiopods dominated. After the
calamity, when little else existed, a different kind of clam-like
organism, called a bivalve, took over.
Research by paleoecologist Margaret Fraiser of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee supports a relatively new theory about the cause of the massive extinction at the end of the Permian period:
Studying the recovering ecology is equally significant.. The evolution of surviving species in the aftermath of the mass extinction set the stage for dinosaurs to evolve later in the Triassic.
Fossil records suggest that trauma in the oceans began in the air.
“Estimates of the C02 in the atmosphere then were between six and 10 times greater than they are today,” says Fraiser, an assistant professor of geosciences. The largest continuous volcanic eruption on Earth – known as the “Siberian Traps” – had been pumping out C02 for about a million years prior to the Permian-Triassic mass extinction.
The Permian-Triassic extinction wiped out 70 percent of life on land and close to 95 percent in the ocean – nearly everything except for bivalves and a fewer number of gastropods (snails).
C02 is a greenhouse gas that influences global temperatures. But, says Fraiser, according to the fossil record, high levels of C02 and the correspondingly low levels of oxygen do much more than that.
The hypothesis unfolds like this:
Fraiser has collected fossil samples of the marine survivors from the period in what today are China, Japan, Italy and the western United States. The similarities of the fossils from all these locations have been surprising.
“It is unexpected to see that,” says Fraiser. “It appears that these bivalves and gastropods were the only survivors worldwide.”
They had all the right characteristics to tolerate the lack of oxygen. They were tiny, shallow-water dwellers, with a high metabolism and flat shape that allowed them to spread out to extract more of the limited oxygen when feeding.
Toxic conditions also inhibited marine life from producing a shell. Size suddenly mattered for mollusks, and only the very small survived, eroding the balance of the marine food chain.
Fraiser also has unearthed evidence that explains why it took so long for life to recover. The answer appears to be more of the same:
Source: University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Gassed to Extinction!
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