Critters caused Earth's first mass extinction, not a meteorite or a volcano

By @Guneet_B on
mass extinction
IN PHOTO: - UNDATED PAINTING - A group of Coelophysis race through a forest of conifers in New Mexico during the Triassic period in this painting. Like homicide detectives searching for a mass murderer, scientists are trying to find the culprit behind one of the biggest killings in Earth's history. A mass extinction 200 million years ago wiped out many of the species on the planet and helped crown the dinosaurs as the rulers of the world. Reuturs - STR New RTXKPBL

A number of theories have been put forward by the researchers in the past, suggesting the possible causes of Earth's first mass extinction that happened 540 million years ago. While some say that the mass extinction occurred when a meteorite struck Earth, others say that it was due to a massive volcanic eruption.

However, a latest study conducted by a team of researchers at the Vanderbilt University in the United States suggests that it was Earth's first complex animals called critters that led to the mass extinction. According to the researchers, the rise of the early animals changed the environment so drastically that it led to the massive extinction on Earth.

"People have been slow to recognize that biological organisms can also drive mass extinction," said study co-author Simon Darroch.

"But our comparative study of several communities of Ediacarans, the world's first multicellular organisms, strongly supports the hypothesis that it was the appearance of complex animals capable of altering their environments, which we define as 'ecosystem engineers,' that resulted in the Ediacaran's disappearance."

According to paleontologists, the "Garden of Ediacara" existed over 600 million years ago. However, the peaceful period existed until the Ediacarans evolved even further into the first complex animals after 60 million years of their existence. The complex animals had the capability of eating other animals. The complex animals eradicated the simple Ediacarans, marking the occurrence of the first mass extinction.

During the study, the researchers studied the youngest known Ediacaran community that existed in Namibia nearly 545 million years ago. The team observed that the area has lower diversity of species and greater ecological stress than other sites which were 10 to 15 million years older.

The team concluded that a combination of ecological stress, biological interactions and ecosystem engineering could have led to the Earth's first mass extinction rather than a meteorite or a volcano.

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