Antarctica served as refuge during largest mass extinction

Antarctica served as refuge during largest mass extinction


Mass extinction in Antartica

Researchers from the University of Washington have identified a distant relative of mammals, Kombuisia antarctica, that apparently survived the mass extinction by living in the continent, journal Naturwissenschaften reported.

"Fossil evidence suggests that small and medium sized animals were more successful at surviving the mass extinction than larger animals. They may have engaged in "sleep-or-hide" behaviours like hibernation, torpor and burrowing to survive in a difficult environment," said lead author Jorg Frobisch.

"The new discovery fills a gap in the fossil record and contributes to a better understanding of vertebrate survival during the end-Permian mass extinction from a geographic as well as an ecological point of view," Frobisch said.
The new species belongs to a larger group of extinct mammal relatives, called anomodonts, which were widespread and represented the dominant plant eaters of their time.

"Members of the group burrowed in the ground, walked the surface and lived in trees," he added.

Scientists are still debating what caused the mass extinction, but it was likely associated with massive volcanic activity in Siberia that could have triggered global warming. When it served as refuge, Antarctica was located some distance north of its present location, was warmer and wasn't covered with permanent glaciers, said the researchers.

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