Friday, 30 September 2011

Reefs May Have Recovered Far Faster After The Permian Great Dying Than Previously Thought

Early Triassic, metazoan, reef building coral fossils
The Great Dying was the greatest destruction of diversity that has ever occured in Earth history. Around 96% of life died, including many of the species of coral that formed vast reef systems that covered the shallow, warm epicontinental seas of the Palaeozoic Earth. Scientists long thought that corals took many millions of years to recover from this most terrible blow. Yet recent  cutting edge research has shown that this incredible animal group may have been more adaptable than previously thought.

Harsh conditions caused by changes in carbon dioxide levels and the climate caused 90% of the animal group to become extinct around 252 million years ago at the end of the Permian period. A team of international palaeontologists led by Dr Hugo Bucher of the University of Zurich have found fossil evidence which shows that the metazoan corals recovered far quicker after the Great Dying and reformed their vast aquatic empire, aiding the recovery of life in the oceans, as the marine world was affected far more than the land.

The team discovered a vast limestone outcrop across what is now South West America. This limestone was composed of vast layers of compacted coral skeletons that lived just 1.5 million years after the cataclysm. It was previously thought that they only began to form reefs again nearly 20 million years after the Great Dying. 'This shows that, after the extinction of dominant reef creators, metazoans were able to form reef ecosystems much sooner than was previously thought,' says Hugo Bucher, summarising the new discoveries.