Single microbe theory, was it a bug that killed off the dinosaurs?

Thursday, 20 December, 2012

The mass extinction that killed off some 90 percent of animal, plant, and insect species on Earth around 251 million years ago, could be attributable to an ocean residing microbe called methanosarcina, thinks Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Daniel Rothman:

Called methanosarcina, this sea-dwelling microbe is responsible for most of the methane produced biologically even today. Rothman and his team discovered that methanosarcina developed the ability to produce methane 231 million years ago. While that ability came around too late to be single-handedly responsible for the link. However, mathanosarcina requires nickel in order to produce methane quickly. Nickel levels spiked almost 251 million years ago, likely because of a spike in Siberian lava from the volcanoes themselves. This indicates that methanosarcina was directly responsible for producing the methane that killed off an overwhelming majority of the Earth’s species.

Bound to hotly disputed but will surely make for a talking point or two over the year-end break.

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