That may sound like a small change, but it actually indicates that, for the species that survived the Great Dying, the oceans were a very inhospitable home.
The Siberian Traps eruptions created millions of square miles of new igneous rock, and released massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at the same time. For 5 million years, the carbon dioxide periodically reacted with water to form acid rain, which ate away at the rock, sending tons of sediment into the oceans.
"It was a game-changer, biologically. Fish would have had silt in their gills, coral reefs would have been buried as far as we can tell, the things that truly thrived in the ocean during that time were microbes," Sedlacek said.
The researchers point to a recent study published in the journal Science, which found that ocean temperatures at the time were around 104 degrees Fahrenheit close to the maximum recommended temperature for a short dip in a hot tub, but not a comfortable temperature to live in 24 hours a day.
Taken together, these findings explain why life took so long to recover from the Great Dying and may imply that life on Earth today will face similar problems in trying to recover from the current climate change.
Though tropical ocean temperatures today may reach only 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the current warming, carbon dioxide, acid rain, and ocean acidification are already proving to be a problem for ocean life. Much research today focuses on understanding what the future holds for ocean species, coral in particular.
From that perspective, this study provides a rather foreboding prediction: that there's no easy road back to prosperity once species start going extinct.
"If you want to know what's going to happen in the future, looking at the past provides an important perspective," Saltzman said. "Global
|Contact: Pam Frost Gorder|
Ohio State University