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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When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time by Michael J. Benton

"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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780500771013
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Publication date: 06/14/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,293,470
File size: 17 MB
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About the Author

Michael J. Benton is Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Bristol. His many previous books include standard reference works, textbooks, and popular books on dinosaurs and the history of life.

Table of Contents

Prologue 7

The Geological Timescale 17

Chapter 1 Antediluvian Sauria 18

Chapter 2 Murchison Names The Permian 36

Chapter 3 The Death Of Catastrophism 56

Chapter 4 The Concept That Dared Not Speak Its Name 71

Chapter 5 Impact! 96

Chapter 6 Diversity, Extinction and Mass Extinction 123

Chapter 7 Homing In On The Event 156

Chapter 8 Life's Biggest Challenge 180

Chapter 9 A Tale of Two Continents 204

Chapter 10 On The River Sakmara 229

Chapter 11 What Caused The Biggest Catastrophe Of All Time? 251

Chapter 12 Recovery From The Brink 284

Chapter 13 The Sixth Mass Extinction? 301

Glossary 314

Notes 317

Bibliography 329

Illustration Credits 342

Index 343

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