Benton WUN seminar: "The end-Permian mass extinction: death and destruction in the red beds of Russia"

Start Date/Time: Wednesday, December 09, 2009, 9:00 AM
Location: Health Sciences Building, Room T-239

Title: The end-Permian mass extinction: death and destruction in the red beds of Russia.
Speaker: Mike Benton, University of Bristol

At the end of the Permian, 252 million years ago, the largest documented mass extinction of all time happened. The level of species loss has been estimated at 80-96%, meaning that only a tiny number of lineages survived into the Triassic to form the basis of the Mesozoic and modern biotas. New work in Russia has revealed a rich record of events in land through the crisis period, and initial work on isotopes, plants, and tetrapods shows a story of rapidly changing climate, with repeated insults to life and a relatively long episode of grim conditions during which many groups struggled to survive. Recovery from the crisis was a drawn-out process lasting some 15-20 million years.

Speaker Biography:
Mike Benton is Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Bristol and has long been interested in fossil reptiles and mass extinctions. Over the past 15 years he has been working with colleagues on the end-Permian mass extinction in the continental red beds of Russia. He has written a number of scientific papers and books, both popular and unpopular.

This talk is being presented as part of the WUN Earth Systems seminar series. The series is a coherent collection of virtual seminars presented on a monthly basis by leading figures to a live international audience of faculty and graduate students. It uses innovative intellectual approaches and new technologies to explore recent debates and developments in earth systems.

This year the series theme will be Co-evolution of life and the planet. Increasing research interest is focusing on the way that environmental factors and biological evolution can influence each other mutually. The 2009/2010 session will present on a variety of processes that demonstrate this co-evolution of life and the planet. In particular, the series will investigate the relationship of extreme environmental events and punctuated evolution, and broaden out to cover biodiversity and biogeochemistry of paleoecosystems (for example the impact of ocean acidification), the recorded response of biota to extreme climatic events, and their interaction in the evolution of the atmosphere. The seminar series spans a diverse range of such major events and how organisms reacted and modified the response, and as usual we expect some lively debate among the WUN audience!

Go here for the seminar series flyer.