The extinction at the end of the Permian period 252 million years ago was one of the darkest chapters in the history of life. Up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial life forms vanished in a geologic blink.
A little over 250 million years ago, our planet experienced a mass extinction the likes of which have never been seen before or since. About 90% of all species were suddenly wiped out. And new study suggests it wasn't caused by an asteroid or super-volcano — but rather methane-spewing microbes.
That's the intriguing new hypothesis put forward to explain the Permian mass extinction, which wiped out more than 90% of all Earth's species 251 million years ago. And we even know which microbe is responsible for this omnicidal annihilation.
About 250 million years ago, the world suffered through an extinction event that makes the death of the dinosaurs look like a minor hiccup by comparison. And now we have our best understanding yet of what caused the Great Dying.
This is Dimetrodon, the world's top predator about 270 million years ago. Living before the dawn of the dinosaurs, this striking creature was actual a distant ancestor of mammals like us. Now we've discovered the most complete Dimetrodon skeleton ever.
Among paleontologists, it's sometimes called the "Great Dying." Roughly a quarter of a billion years ago, 90-95 percent of all life on Earth died out. It took 30 million years for the planet to recover. What happened?