Extinction: End‐Permian Mass Extinction

Abstract

The end‐Permian mass extinction (252.3 Ma) was an abrupt and severe loss of diversity on land and in the oceans, the largest extinction of the Phanerozoic. Recent palaeontological, geochemical and modelling studies link the extinction with eruption of the Siberian Traps flood basalts, which would have caused global warming, ocean acidification and shallow‐marine anoxia. On land, global warming and aridification were mostly responsible for the vertebrate and plant extinction. Although almost no marine group emerged unscathed, selectivity favoured more active animals, whereas sessile and heavily calcified taxa such as corals and reef‐building sponges suffered heavily. The recovery interval was unusually long, likely because of continuing stress, and the extinction resulted in permanent shifts in marine ecosystem composition and structure, giving rise to the mollusc‐rich communities that still dominate today.

Key Concepts:

  • The end‐Permian mass extinction was a severe crisis for nearly every plant and animal group, on land and in the oceans.

  • The extinction was abrupt, apparently synchronous on land and in the sea, with the majority of taxonomic losses occurring over a few tens of thousands of years, approximately 252.3 Ma.

  • In the marine realm, more actively motile animal groups fared relatively better during the extinction.

  • Although low‐oxygen waters were widespread and contributed to the marine extinction, the primary cause most likely was global warming and ocean acidification from CO2 released by Siberia Traps flood basalt volcanism.

  • The terrestrial extinction was also caused by global warming and, among plants, the resulting dry conditions.

  • It took an unusually long time (5–7 million years) for most marine and terrestrial ecosystems to recover from the extinction, likely because of continuing intermittent stress.

  • The extinction triggered permanent changes in the composition and structure of marine ecosystems, giving rise to mollusc‐dominated communities that remain dominant today.

Keywords: Permian; Triassic; extinction; ocean acidification; climate change; reefs; evolution

Figure 1.

Palaeogeographic map showing the location of regions with marine and terrestrial Permian–Triassic boundary sections. Permian oceans and the location of key present‐day areas are labelled. The location of symbols indicates the presence of boundary sections in a region; not all boundary sections are shown.

Figure 2.

Biological and environmental events around the Permian–Triassic boundary. The timescale shows the intervals of the Middle Permian to Middle Triassic geological timescale, including the substages of the Early Triassic (Griesbachian to Spathian). Diversity of benthic (bottom dwelling) and swimming marine invertebrates is taken from raw genus counts in the Paleobiology Database and is shown at the stage level; extinction is calculated from sampling‐standardised data. The carbon isotope curve is based on measurements of δ13C from carbonates and indicates perturbations to the global carbon cycle. The timing of key events – flood basalt eruptions, radiolarian chert deposition, metazoan reef formation and microbialite formation – is indicated by solid lines, with the width corresponding qualitatively to the global importance of the event. The precise duration of flood basalt eruption is uncertain.

Figure 3.

Change between Permian and Mesozoic ecosystems from Erwin in 1996. The structure of marine life was changed dramatically after the mass extinction. In the Middle Permian (left), the seas contained mostly immobile animals, with some fish and a few trilobites. But by the Mesozoic Era (right), the ocean resembled modern‐day seas, with mobile bivalves, gastropods, swimming fish and cephalopods.

close

References

Algeo TJ, Chen ZQ, Fraiser ML and Twitchett RJ (2011) Terrestrial‐marine teleconnections in the collapse and rebuilding of Early Triassic marine ecosystems. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 308: 1–11.

Algeo TJ, Henderson CM, Tong JN et al. (in press) Plankton and productivity during the Permian‐Triassic boundary crisis: an analysis of organic carbon fluxes. Global and Planetary Change. doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2012.02.008.

Bambach R, Knoll A and Sepkoski J (2002) Anatomical and ecological constraints on Phanerozoic animal diversity in the marine realm. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 99: 6854–6859.

Baud A, Richoz S and Pruss S (2007) The lower Triassic anachronistic carbonate facies in space and time. Global and Planetary Change 55: 81–89.

Benton MJ, Tverdokhlebov VP and Surkov MV (2004) Ecosystem remodelling among vertebrates at the Permian–Triassic boundary in Russia. Nature 432: 97–100.

Bond DPG and Wignall PB (2010) Pyrite framboid study of marine Permian–Triassic boundary sections: a complex anoxic event and its relationship to contemporaneous mass extinction. Geological Society of America Bulletin 122: 1265–1279.

Brayard A, Escarguel G, Bucher H et al. (2009) Good genes and good luck: ammonoid diversity and the end‐Permian mass extinction. Science 325: 1118–1121.

Brayard A, Vennin E, Olivier N et al. (2011) Transient metazoan reefs in the aftermath of the end‐Permian mass extinction. Nature Geoscience 4: 693–697.

Brennecka GA, Herrmann AD, Algeo TJ and Anbar AD (2011) Rapid expansion of oceanic anoxia immediately before the end‐Permian mass extinction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108: 17631–17634.

Clapham ME and Payne JL (2011) Acidification, anoxia, and extinction: a multiple logistic regression analysis of extinction selectivity during the Middle and Late Permian. Geology 39: 1059–1062.

De Wever P, O'Dogherty L and Gorican S (2006) The plankton turnover at the Permo–Triassic boundary, emphasis on radiolarians. Eclogae Geologicae Helvetiae 99: S49–S62.

Farley KA and Mukhopadhyay S (2001) An extraterrestrial impact at the Permian–Triassic boundary? Science 293: 2343.

Farley KA, Ward P, Garrison G and Mukhopadhyay S (2005) Absence of extraterrestrial He‐3 in Permian‐Triassic age sedimentary rocks. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 240: 265–275.

Fraiser M and Bottjer D (2005) Restructuring in benthic level‐bottom shallow marine communities due to prolonged environmental stress following the end‐Permian mass extinction. Comptes Rendus Palevol 4: 583–591.

Gould S and Calloway C (1980) Clams and brachiopods – ships that pass in the night. Paleobiology 6: 383–396.

Grice K, Cao CQ, Love GD et al. (2005) Photic zone euxinia during the Permian–Triassic superanoxic event. Science 307: 706–709.

Groves JR, Rettori R, Payne JL, Boyce MD and Altiner D (2007) End‐Permian mass extinction of lagenide foraminifers in the Southern Alps (Northern Italy). Journal of Paleontology 81: 415–434.

Hays LE, Beatty T, Henderson CM, Love GD and Summons RE (2007) Evidence for photic zone euxinia through the end‐Permian mass extinction in the Panthalassic Ocean (Peace River Basin, Western Canada). Palaeoworld 16: 39–50.

Huang CJ, Tong JN, Hinnov L and Chen ZQ (2011) Did the great dying of life take 700 ky.? Evidence from global astronomical correlation of the Permian–Triassic boundary interval. Geology 39: 779–782.

Huey RB and Ward PD (2005) Hypoxia, global warming, and terrestrial Late Permian extinctions. Science 308: 398–401.

Irmis RB and Whiteside JH (2011) Delayed recovery of non‐marine tetrapods after the end‐Permian mass extinction tracks global carbon cycle. Proceedings of the Royal Society B—Biological Sciences. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2011.1895.

Jin YG, Wang Y, Wang W et al. (2000) Pattern of marine mass extinction near the Permian–Triassic boundary in South China. Science 289: 432–436.

Joachimski MM, Lai XL, Shen SZ et al. (2012) Climate warming in the latest Permian and the Permian–Triassic mass extinction. Geology 40: 195–198.

Kakuwa Y and Matsumoto R (2006) Cerium negative anomaly just before the Permian and Triassic boundary event – The upward expansion of anoxia in the water column. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 229: 335–344.

Knoll A, Bambach RK, Payne JL, Pruss S and Fischer WW (2007) Paleophysiology and end‐Permian mass extinction. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 256: 295–313.

Korte C and Kozur HW (2010) Carbon‐isotope stratigraphy across the Permian–Triassic boundary: a review. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 39: 215–235.

Looy CV, Brugman WA, Dilcher DL and Visscher H (1999) The delayed resurgence of equatorial forests after the Permian–Triassic ecologic crisis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 96: 13857–13862.

Meyer KM, Yu M, Jost AB, Kelley BM and Payne JL (2011) δ13C evidence that high primary productivity delayed recovery from end‐Permian mass extinction. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 302: 378–384.

Meyer KM, Kump LR and Ridgwell A (2008) Biogeochemical controls on photic‐zone euxinia during the end‐Permian mass extinction. Geology 36: 747–750.

Payne J, Turchyn A, Paytan A et al. (2010) Calcium isotope constraints on the end‐Permian mass extinction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 107: 8543–8548.

Payne JL, Lehrmann DJ, Wei JY et al. (2004) Large perturbations of the carbon cycle during recovery from the end‐Permian extinction. Science 305: 506–509.

Payne JL, Summers M, Rego BL et al. (2011) Early and middle Triassic trends in diversity, evenness, and size of foraminifers on a carbonate platform in south China: implications for tempo and mode of biotic recovery from the end‐Permian mass extinction. Paleobiology 37: 409–425.

Rampino MR, Prokoph A and Adler A (2000) Tempo of the end‐Permian event: High‐resolution cyclostratigraphy at the Permian–Triassic boundary. Geology 28: 643–646.

Retallack GJ, Veevers JJ and Morante R (1996) Global coal gap between Permian–Triassic extinction and middle Triassic recovery of peat‐forming plants. Geological Society of America Bulletin 108: 195–207.

Riccardi AL, Arthur MA and Kump LR (2006) Sulfur isotopic evidence for chemocline upward excursions during the end‐Permian mass extinction. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 70: 5740–5752.

Schneebeli‐Hermann E, Hochuli PA, Bucher H et al. (2012) Palynology of the lower Triassic succession of Tulong, South Tibet – Evidence for early recovery of gymnosperms. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 339: 12–24.

Sepkoski J (1981) A factor analytic description of the Phanerozoic marine fossil record. Paleobiology 7: 36–53.

Shen SZ, Crowley JL, Wang Y et al. (2011) Calibrating the end‐Permian mass extinction. Science 334: 1367–1372.

Song HJ, Tong JN, Zhang KX, Wang QX and Chen ZQ (2007) Foraminiferal survivors from the Permian–Triassic mass extinction in the Meishan section, South China. Palaeoworld 16: 105–119.

Svensen H, Planke S, Polozov A et al. (2009) Siberian gas venting and the end‐Permian environmental crisis. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 277: 490–500.

Twitchett RJ, Looy CV, Morante R, Visscher H and Wignall PB (2001) Rapid and synchronous collapse of marine and terrestrial ecosystems during the end‐Permian biotic crisis. Geology 29: 351–354.

Wagner PJ, Kosnik MA and Lidgard S (2006) Abundance distributions imply elevated complexity of post‐Paleozoic marine ecosystems. Science 314: 1289–1292.

Ward PD, Botha J, Buick R et al. (2005) Abrupt and gradual extinction among Late Permian land vertebrates in the Karoo Basin, South Africa. Science 307: 709–714.

Winguth AME and Maier‐Reimer E (2005) Causes of the marine productivity and oxygen changes associated with the Permian–Triassic boundary: a reevaluation with ocean general circulation models. Marine Geology 217: 283–304.

Further Reading

Erwin DH (2006) Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.

Payne JL and Clapham ME (2012) End‐Permian mass extinction in the oceans: an ancient analog for the twenty‐first century? Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences 40: 89–111.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Clapham, Matthew E(Jan 2013) Extinction: End‐Permian Mass Extinction. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001654.pub3]