Research leader on the biggest terrestrial extinction is Portuguese


The paleontologist Ricardo Araújo, will lead an international team that will investigate in Mozambique the impact caused by the greatest extinction of life on earth occurred 252 million years ago. The investigation was announced this week.

The Portuguese, from the Institute of Plasmas and Nuclear Fusion of the Superior Technical Institute and the Museum of Lourinhã, has just won a scholarship from the National Geographic magazine to support the research. Speaking to Lusa magazine, he explained that Mozambique is one of the few places in the world whose rocky layers record precisely the transition between Permian and Triassic about 252 million years ago.

This period also marks the separation between the geological ages of the Paleozoic and the Mesozoic, when “the greatest extinction that existed on Earth extinguished about 95% of living beings on earth”.

The extinction “absolutely overwhelming and incomparably superior to any other period of Earth’s history” was caused by a volcanic eruption of gigantic dimensions in the Siberian area during which tons of greenhouse gases were released. These gases, as well as now, have led to a major modification of climate and life on planet Earth.

Using stratigraphy, prospecting and excavation, researchers are still expecting to find fossils belonging to new species of fauna and flora near Lake Niassa.

“About 95% of the species have been extinct, so any species of Triassic that is found will be very interesting to see what kind of species are most affected by extinctions, whether there is any difference in size of animals or in terms of trophic chain, if were herbivores or whether they were carnivorous, or what kind of animals managed to survive this extinction”, explained the researcher.

The multidisciplinary team of paleontologists, geologists and engineers, hopes to discover a great deal in Mozambique, for example, remains of Lystrosaurus (ancestors of mammals) that survived extinction and whose remains have been discovered and excavated in South Africa, Antarctica, Zambia or Russia.

Ricardo Araújo also explained that it was in this transition between the Permian and the Triassic that the ancestors of the main groups of vertebrate animals that now exist on Earth originated, thus justifying the importance of this investigation in order to better understand its origin as well as its evolution over millions of years.

The international team led by Ricardo Araújo, is also composed of Portuguese Rui Martins, of the Institute of Plasmas and Nuclear Fusion of Instituto Superior Técnico, by the Mozambicans Dino Milisse and Nelson Nhamutole, of the National Museum of Geology of Mozambique, by the Kenneth Angielczyk Field Museum, and Jim Crowley, Boise State University, Sterling Nesbitt, Technical University of Virginia, and South African Roger Smith of the Iziko Museum.