Volcanoes and the Late Ordovician Extinction – #365papers – 2017 – 139

#365papers for May 19, 2017

Jones, Martini, Fike, and Kaiho, 2017, A volcanic trigger for the Late Ordovician mass extinction? Mercury data from south China and Laurentia: Geology,

What’s it about?

One of the “Big Five” mass extinctions that has affected life on this planet is the Late Ordovician mass extinction or LOME. The causes of such extinctions are topics of focused research efforts. Here, the authors show that pulses of volcanic activity may be related to the extinction events.

Why does it matter?

The extinction that killed the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period is known to have been associated with an impact of an extraterrestrial object into the Earth. There also was active volcanism at that time. Both have been blamed for the extinction that took place 65 million years ago. Likewise, other extinctions have been variously blamed on impacts, volcanoes, and plate tectonic motions.

The Late Ordovician mass extinction is not associated with any obvious impact events, nor are there any obvious volcanic beds. It is known that there were climate changes and plate motions at that time that might have played a role in the extinction.

Through the use of measurements of mercury concentrations, the influence of otherwise invisible volcanoes can be shown.

Why did I read this?

Geochemistry for the win!

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