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Mercury dating back 252 million years has been discovered in rocks and adds to the growing belief that the 'Great Dying' was caused by volcanoes.
Researchers found strong mercury signals in rocks dating back to this time period when 95 per cent of all life was wiped out.
Signals - Sites - Globe - Teeth - Creatures
The signals were found in 10 different sites across the globe, and were dated by studying the teeth of fossilised eel-like creatures.
Causes of the so-called 'Great Dying' have been heavily debated but this study provides persuasive evidence that volcanic eruptions were to blame.
Great - Dying - Mass - Extinction - Place
Known colloquially as 'the Great Dying', the mass extinction that took place 252 million years ago killed off a catastrophic 95 per cent of life on Earth.
The event is marked in the geological record as the boundary between the Permian and Triassic periods of time.
Vents - Volcanoes - Eruptions - Fissures - Earth
Rather than coming from vents in stereotypical cone-shaped volcanoes, the eruptions came out of huge fissures in the Earth's crust.
'Typically, when you have large, explosive volcanic eruptions, a lot of mercury is released into the atmosphere,' explains paper author and geologist Thomas Algeo of the University of Cincinnati.
Addition - Eruptions - Deposits - Coal - Mercury
In addition, it is thought that the eruptions caused vast deposits of coal to ignite, releasing mercury vapour which travelled high up into the atmosphere.
Ultimately, this mercury rained back down onto the earth, leaving behind an environmental signature in marine sediments across the globe.
Signature - Researchers - Sites - Globe
It is this signature that the researchers have detected in 10 sites across the globe.
The study sites were chosen to represent various marine environments, including shallow and deep settings, both near and far from the eruption site.
Catastrophe - Living - Species - Time - Space
The catastrophe notably ravaged the living amphibian and reptile species of the time, and is thought to have created the environmental space that would ultimately allow new groups — including the dinosaurs — to evolve....
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