The Permian extinction killed off some 90 percent of species, including these goniatite mollusks.
Photograph by Vaughan Fleming, Photo Researchers

“Lethally Hot” Earth Was Devoid of Life — Could It Happen Again?

Fossil clues show “just how bad the world could get.”

Christine Dell’Amore
National Geographic News
Published October 18, 2012

Extinctions during the early Triassic period left Earth a virtual wasteland, largely because life literally couldn’t take the heat, a new study suggests.

Between 247 to 252 million years ago, Earth was reeling from a mass extinction called the end-Permian event. The die-off had wiped out most life on Earth, including most land plants. The planet was baking, and life at the Equator struggled to survive.

Plants gobble up carbon dioxide, which warms the planet. So without them, Earth became “like a runaway greenhouse—it [started] to get out of control,” said study co-author Paul Wignall, a paleontologist at England’s Leeds University.

The few life-forms that had survived the Permian extinction—such as hardier snails and clams—died in the deadly heat, leaving Earth a virtual “dead zone” for five million years, said Wignall.

Read more: "Lethally Hot" Earth Was Devoid of Life — Could It Happen Again? — National Geographic.

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