A recent study reveals what it takes for a species to live through a mass extinction event.
What would it take to survive a mass extinction event? There have been five known mass extinction events in the history of life on the Earth, and scientists fear that we’re sitting on the edge of the coming sixth. According to a report from Popular Science, however, researchers have found one of the main reasons why the Lystrosaurus, a strange prehistoric creature, was able to survive the devastating Permo-Triassic extinction some 252 million years ago.
Rapid climate change and ocean acidification, and left nearly 80 percent of marine and 70 percent of land species on Earth extinct characterized the last great extinction event. Despite the massive losses of life, there were species that survived and carried on to roam the new landscape.
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that Lystrosaurus lived underground and stayed on the move during the time of the Permo-Triassic extinction event, but it had one ace up its sleeve that allowed the species to carry on while others disappeared.
Following the fifth great extinction, Lystrosaurus effectively reduced its lifespan by an average of nearly ten years and began reproducing on a much more rapid cycle. The average size of the beast shrank from that of a present day hippo to the size of a dog. Despite the species’ morphological adaptations, they continued to spread through sheer numbers near the dawn of the Triassic.
According to one of the study’s authors, Ken Angielczyk, “With the world currently facing its sixth mass extinction, paleontological research helps us understand the world around us today. By studying how animals like Lystrosaurus adapted in the face of disaster, we can better predict how looming environmental changes may affect modern species.”
The study suggests that while a mass extinction event greatly reduces biodiversity on Earth, there are sure to be winners and losers. Life has a strong ability to adapt in the face of adversity, and will more than likely find a way to carry on.
A press release from the University of the Witwatersrand describing the details of the study can be found here.