Fossils show quick rebound of life after the 'Great Dying'
Fossils including sharks, sea reptiles and squid-like creatures dug up in Idaho reveal a marine ecosystem thriving relatively soon after Earth's worst mass extinction, contradicting the long-held notion life was slow to recover from the calamity.
|Artistic view of the diversified and complex Early Triassic marine ecosystem of southeastern Idaho |
as revealed by the Paris Biota. Illustration by and with permission of Jorge Gonzalez
[Credit: Jorge Gonzalez]
Even the asteroid-induced mass extinction 66 million years ago that doomed the dinosaurs did not push life to the brink of annihilation like the Permian one.
|View of a sampled slab from the Paris Biota showing abundant fish scales and shrimp |
[Credit: Arnaud Brayard]
"Our discovery was totally unexpected," said paleontologist Arnaud Brayard of the University of Burgundy-Franche-Comte in France, with a highly diversified and complex assemblage of animals.
|Remarkable group of sponge fossils from the Paris Biota under UV light. |
Scale bar lenght: 5mm [Credit: Arnaud Brayard]
The Permian die-off occurred 251.9 million years ago. The Idaho ecosystem flourished 1.3 million years later, "quite rapid on a geological scale," according to Brayard.
The Idaho ecosystem, in the earliest stages of the Triassic Period that later produced the first dinosaurs, included some unexpected creatures. There was a type of sponge previously believed to have gone extinct 200 million years earlier, and a squid-like group previously thought not to have originated until 50 million years later.
|A graphic detailing how the Early Triassic was an epoch that recorded major extinctions |
and geochemical perturbations [Credit: Arnaud Brayard & Gilles Escarguel]
"The Early Triassic is a complex and highly disturbed epoch, but certainly not a devastated one as commonly assumed, and this epoch has not yet yielded up all its secrets," Brayard said.
The research was published in the journal Science Advances.
Source: Australian Associated Press [February 18, 2017]