1. Critters, not catastrophe, caused Earth’s first mass extinction

Critters, not catastrophe, caused Earth’s first mass extinction

A new study has given out the evidence that world's first known mass extinction, which took place about 540 million years ago, had a more subtle cause: evolution itself.

By: | Washington | Published: September 5, 2015 3:37 PM

A new study has given out the evidence that world’s first known mass extinction, which took place about 540 million years ago, had a more subtle cause: evolution itself.

Vanderbilt University’s Simon Darroch said that people have been slow to recognize that biological organisms can also drive mass extinction, but their 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 is defined as ‘ecosystem engineers,’ that resulted in the Ediacaran’s disappearance.

There is a powerful analogy between the Earth’s first mass extinction and what is happening today, Darroch observed, adding that the end-Ediacaran extinction shows that the evolution of new behaviors can fundamentally change the entire planet, and they are the most powerful ‘ecosystem engineers’ ever known.

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B

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