Evidence left at the crime scene is abundant and global: Fossil remains show that sometime around 252 million years ago, about 90 percent of all species on Earth were suddenly wiped out — by far the largest of this planet’s five known mass extinctions. But pinpointing the culprit has been difficult, and controversial.
252 million years ago the largest extinction event occurred at the end of the Permian age. It wiped out almost 90 percent of all life in water. So far researchers had assumed that the ecosystems gradually recovered from this catastrophe over a long stretch of eight to nine million years and that large predators at the uppermost end of the food chain were the last to reappear.
The ancient closest relatives of mammals – the cynodont therapsids – not only survived the greatest mass extinction of all time, 252 million years ago, but thrived in the aftermath, according to new research published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.