In a recently published study, scientists have discovered that our planet’s first mass extinction came as the result of global warming. It’s believed that the extinction of the Late Ordovician period resulted from a back-to-back cold snap and overheating period. 85 percent of the planet’s heavily marine population was completely wiped out.
But before you start spouting that global warming is something we’ve experienced before and therefore isn’t a big deal, remember this: the first extinction was a natural occurrence, whereas our situation is entirely man-made.
Turns out that times may not have changed as much as we thought. Scientists have found that our planet’s first mass extinction 445 million years ago was due to global warming.
So, the story goes something like this. 445 million years ago, things got very cold on planet earth. An Ice Age if you will. With a planet populated by a lot of fish, this obviously posed a bit of a problem when waterways started to freeze over. Everything was okay though, our fish ancestors were making the most of a bad situation and thriving as best they could.
Then things got a little hot in here. Planet heats, ice melts, oxygen levels drop (anoxia), and the poor little fish are in a bit of trouble. Add in a couple of hyperactive volcanoes and greenhouse gases, and you’ve got the first mass extinction our planet’s ever seen.
Researchers always believed that this late Ordovician event was an outlier from other similar events, due to its multi-stage origins. Scientists David Bond and Stephen Grasby are here to tell us otherwise.
“The Ordovician one has always been a little bit of an oddball,” Stephen Grasby told the The New York Times. “This wasn’t an oddball cooling event. It joins the club as another ‘death by warming.’”
Bond and Grasby note that this event will be instrumental in the fight against our planet’s impending sixth mass extinction.
Find out more here.