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Gassy volcanoes tied to mass extinction

Chemicals from Siberian eruption may have triggered history's greatest catastrophe

4:39pm, December 14, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — The greatest extinction in the history of life may have been caused, in part, by ozone-depleting gases spewed in a massive volcanic eruption, a new study suggests. Geologists have found surprisingly high amounts of the elements fluorine and chlorine in Siberian lavas dating back 250 million years — when about 90 percent of marine species and 70 percent of terrestrial species went extinct.

Benjamin Black, a graduate student at MIT, and his colleagues described their theory December 13 in a poster presentation at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Researchers have long struggled to explain the “Great Dying” that occurred at the end of the Permian period. Some think that the extinction was a long, drawn-out affair caused by multiple factors — perhaps gradual changes in oceanic or atmospheric chemistry (SN: 5/28/05, p. 339). Others have blamed a single catastrophic event such as a

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