When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time

When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time

by Michael J. Benton
     
 

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"Michael Benton's splendid book brings back to Earth Science a sense of adventure. . . . It is both a wonderfully good read and a valued reference." —James Lovelock, author of Gaia and Homage to Gaia

Today it is common knowledge that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteorite impact 65 million years ago that killed half of all

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Overview

"Michael Benton's splendid book brings back to Earth Science a sense of adventure. . . . It is both a wonderfully good read and a valued reference." —James Lovelock, author of Gaia and Homage to Gaia

Today it is common knowledge that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteorite impact 65 million years ago that killed half of all species then living. Far less well-known is a much greater catastrophe that took place at the end of the Permian period 251 million years ago: 90 percent of life was destroyed, including saber-toothed reptiles and their rhinoceros-sized prey on land, as well as vast numbers of fish and other species in the sea.

This book documents not only what happened during this gigantic mass extinction but also the recent rekindling of the idea of catastrophism. Was the end-Permian event caused by the impact of a huge meteorite or comet, or by prolonged volcanic eruption in Siberia? The evidence has been accumulating through the 1990s and into the new millennium, and Michael Benton gives his verdict at the very end. From field camps in Greenland and Russia to the laboratory bench, When Life Nearly Died involves geologists, paleontologists, environmental modelers, geochemists, astronomers, and experts on biodiversity and conservation. Their working methods are vividly described and explained, and the current disputes are revealed. The implications of our understanding of crises in the past for the current biodiversity crisis are also presented in detail. 46 b/w illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A meteor striking Earth 65 million years ago is now held as a plausible explanation for the demise of the dinosaurs. But what caused events like the Permian extinction 251 million years ago, often considered the most devastating of the five big extinctions, when an estimated 90 percent of all life disappeared from the planet? Paleontologist Benton sets out to unravel this puzzle, building his case by beginning with the history of geology and modern improvements in the ability to analyze information from the fossil record. He contrasts a comprehensive picture of living sea and land organisms with life just after the extinction. In the final chapters, he offers his explanations for the extinction ("a combination of volcanic activity and a release of gas hydrates...produced a devastating cascade of acid rains, global warming, land weathering, ocean stagnation, and marine anoxia"). The author covers a lot of information, but he connects it all in a readable and interesting way, while striving to present a balanced and open-ended viewpoint. For public and academic libraries.-Kimberly Megginson, DeWitt Medical Lib., Ft. Belvoir, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780500771013
Publisher:
Thames & Hudson
Publication date:
06/14/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
434,818
File size:
17 MB
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