Professor Hongfu Yin and Dr. Haijun Song from the State Key Laboratory of Geobiology and Environmental Geology at the China University of Geosciences presented new evidence that links the formation of the super-continent Pangaea to the Permian–Triassic extinction event (Great Dying) in the Nov. 3, 2103, issue of the journal Science China Earth Sciences.
The researcher presented geological evidence that show the tectonic activity that was produced when the continents drifted into the massive super-continent Pangaea was a potential cause of the Permian–Triassic extinction.
The elevation of Pangaea was much higher than the levels of present continents. This condition could have been the first in a series of events that caused the mass extinction of animal life. Many animals cannot exist at higher elevations and lower temperatures.
The oceans deepened when the continents merged into Pangaea. This could account for the high death rate of shallow water ocean species that occurred beginning 250 million years ago.
Most importantly, the tectonic activity would have produced a huge number of volcanic eruptions. These eruptions would have increased the carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and cyanide gases in the atmosphere. The change in the atmosphere would have produced the large die off of animal populations and could account for the decrease in plant species that could not accommodate the lower levels of sun light that higher particulate atmospheres would have produced.
This research is one of the first to correlate the timing of known paleontological events with tectonic events as a cause of the Great Dying 250 million years ago.