Jul 26, 2017 | Updated: 12:11 PM EDT

Scientists Claim Metal Nickel Was Involved In Earth's Biggest Mass Extinction

Apr 19, 2017 01:50 AM EDT

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Earth faced an event of mass extinction, which almost brought it to an end about 250 million years ago. The event took place between the Permian and Triassic periods and is known as the Great Dying. A recent research has revealed that nickel, the element with atomic number 28, played a major role in this catastrophe.

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According to The Conversation, the mass extinction event was caused due to a number of reasons, killing several species on earth at that time. The reasons behind the event, as assumed by the scientists, could have been caused due to declining levels of oxygen in marine life, the rise in temperature, and an impact of a deadly meteor.

These events, termed as trigger events by the scientists, presumably caused a lot of problem to the carbon cycle, leading to extreme changes in climate. This shift in the climatic conditions led to the sudden rise in activity of one kind of sea creature related to bacteria dubbed the "Archaea methanosarcina". These bacteria-like creature used to live in colonies, which used to extract energy from transforming organic carbon into methane. Reportedly, the abundance of nickel in the oceans limited these colonies from thriving and ultimately led to the mass extinction. Scientists are in the process of finding out the reason behind the presence of nickel in such huge quantity 250 million years ago from now.

According to Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, the eruption of the basaltic Siberian traps was a major reason behind the mass extinction scenario on earth 250 million years ago. Scientists opine that the bursting of biogenic methane caused the deposition of vast amounts of nickel in the atmosphere. This nickel, which was present in abundance in the Noril'sk nickel ores of Siberia, is supposed to have triggered the eruption of the basaltic Siberian traps.

However, nickel, being a non-volatile element, it is not possible for it to get released in the atmosphere. Scientists assume that the flotation of sulfide liquid droplets, which have the ability to hang on to gas bubbles, have been a probable reason behind the deadly metal getting into the atmosphere during the basaltic eruptions causing the mass extinction.

The researchers used 2D and 3D X-ray imagery on the acquired Noril'sk nickel sulfide, along with simple thermodynamics to create a model, which is evident enough of the fact that the Noril'sk ores were degassing during their formation. This led to the involvement of nickel in the atmosphere, leading to mass extinction during the 250million-year-old catastrophe.


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