Friday, May 29, 2009

Extinction in the Oceans

A news article that appeared on Yahoo News has implicated a huge volcanic eruption 260 million years ago in the devastation of life in the oceans:
The researchers were able to pinpoint the exact timing of the massive eruption thanks to a layer of fossilized rock which showed mass extinction of different life forms -- clearly linking the volcanic blasts to a major environmental catastrophe.

"The abrupt extinction of marine life we can clearly see in the fossil record firmly links giant volcanic eruptions with global environmental catastrophe," said Paul Wignall, a professor and palaeontologist at the University of Leeds, who was the lead author of the research paper in the May 29 edition of Science.

The eruption in southwest China unleashed about a half million cubic kilometers of lava, covering an area five times the size of Wales, according to the research by scientists at the British university.

Although the news of the extinction is new, the existence of this volcano is not. Geologic maps dating from the 1960s clearly showed the existence of a massive cone in central-west China. I remember looking at them and thinking "dang, that's a huge volcano."

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