A new study has revealed that at the end of the Triassic Period, there was a “lost” mass extinction and a rain storm that lasted more than a million years. These events happened around 233 million years ago when there was one supercontinent named Pangaea.
The long-lasting rain storm has been named the Carnian Pluvial Episode (or CPE) and a huge mass extinction occurred during that time that killed off one-third of marine species in addition to large amounts of land animals and plants that died as a result of climate change caused by volcanic eruptions in Wrangellia in what is now the western coast of Canada.
In fact, studies have suggested that at least 5,000 gigatons of carbon was released into Earth’s atmosphere during the eruptions that triggered the climate change. There would have been a lot more humidity as well as huge rain storms. The oceans then turned acidic which killed off countless marine species.
Even though the CPE caused major extinctions, there was a silver lining as the researchers described this period as being a “turnover” that ultimately helped the dinosaurs dominate the land and aided with the evolution of numerous animals – some of which are still around today.
Jacopo Dal Corso, who is a geology professor at the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan and the lead author of the study, explained this further in an interview with Eos.org, “A key feature of the CPE is that extinction was very rapidly followed by a big radiation [of new species],”adding, “A number of groups that have a central role in today's ecosystems appeared or diversified for the first time in the Carnian [an age within the Triassic that lasted from 237 to 227 million years ago].”
Coral reefs and plankton are part of these groups in addition to several species like lizards, frogs, turtles, crocodilians, and certain dinosaurs that prospered for the following 150 million years. And conifer trees appeared for the first time during the CPE.
Mike Benton, who is a professor of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and a co-author of the study, stated that part of the research focused on how significant the CPE was in comparison to other mass extinctions that occurred in Earth’s history. “It appears not as substantial as the “big five”, but not far off, and with proper analysis in future it might turn out to be of similar magnitude,” he explained. “The end-Permian extinction wiped out 95% of all marine species, and the Triassic was a time of recovery.” “It now seems the CPE was a key punctuation [in that process].”
The study was published in the journal Science Advances where it can be read in full.