History Lesson: Microbe-Driven Global Warming Caused Greatest Extinction

History Lesson: Microbe-Driven Global Warming Caused Greatest Extinction indicates a new published study that looked at rocky evidence from the Permian extinction, 250+ millions of years ago, reports the UK Guardian. The rocks indicate a sudden spike in carbon emissions, much greater and faster than volcanism at the time could have created – but an exploding microbe could.

The culprit, they supect, is Methanosarcina, a methane-belching microbe, that proliferated when volcanism fertilized the oceans from the deep depths with a growth-stimulating nutrient, nickel.


Evidence indicates that global warming, driven by a methane-producing microbe, wiped out most of the larger forms of life, including trilobites, on Earth at the end of the Permian era, 250+ million years ago. Wikipedia.

Methanocarcina sent enormous amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, shooting up temperatures high and fast, too fast for most life to adapt. Practically all macrolife (ie, big enough to be visible without a microscope) on Earth went extinct. Among the survivors were our ancestors.

Far fetched? Actually, it was the evolution of another microbe that made macrolife possible in the first place: microbes that could photosynthesize, pumping enough oxygen into the atmosphere to support the evolution of macrofauna and flora.

Hmmmm… a fast spike in global temperatures… now where have I heard that before?

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About melharte

Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte is a biologist (PhD) and climate change educator. She co-authored the free online book, COOL THE EARTH, SAVE THE ECONOMY, available at www.CoolTheEarth.US, and writes the CLIMATE CHANGE THIS WEEK column at the HuffingtonPost. Living summers in the alpine Rockies, she is on the frontlines of watching what climate change can do. Her diagnostic digital photographs of wildflowers have appeared in numerous publications.
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One Response to History Lesson: Microbe-Driven Global Warming Caused Greatest Extinction

  1. I have a rare fossil trilobite – one of the very last to go extinct – that I found in a local quarry many years ago. No I have a better understanding of what may have caused its (i.e., their) extinction. Very interesting!

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