A new study could help explain the driving force behind the largest mass extinction in the history of Earth, known as the End-Permian Extinction.
The event, also known as the Great Dying, occurred around 250 million years ago when a massive volcanic eruption in what is today the Russian province of Siberia sent nearly 90 percent of all life right into extinction. Geologists call this eruption the Siberian Flood Basalts, and it ran for almost 1 million years.
Lawrence “Larry” Taylor
“The scale of this extinction was so incredible, that scientists have often wondered what made the Siberian Flood Basalts so much more deadly than other similar eruptions,” said Michael Broadley, a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Petrographic and Geochemical Research, in France, and lead author of the paper.
The work, which was published in Nature Geoscience, was co-authored by Lawrence “Larry” Taylor, the former director of UT’s Planetary Geosciences Institute. Taylor, whose prolific UT career spanned 46 years, passed away in September 2017 at age 79.
According to Broadley, “Taylor was instrumental in supplying samples of mantle xenoliths, rock sections of the lithosphere (a section of the planet located between the crust and the mantle) that get captured by the passing magma and erupted to the surface during the volcanic explosion. Taylor also provided advice throughout the study.”