Methanogenic burst in the end-Permian carbon cycle
Author(s)Rothman, Daniel H.; Fournier, Gregory P.; French, Katherine L.; Alm, Eric J.; Boyle, Edward A.; Summons, Roger Everett; Cao, Changqun; ... Show more Show less
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The end-Permian extinction is associated with a mysterious disruption to Earth’s carbon cycle. Here we identify causal mechanisms via three observations. First, we show that geochemical signals indicate superexponential growth of the marine inorganic carbon reservoir, coincident with the extinction and consistent with the expansion of a new microbial metabolic pathway. Second, we show that the efficient acetoclastic pathway in Methanosarcina emerged at a time statistically indistinguishable from the extinction. Finally, we show that nickel concentrations in South China sediments increased sharply at the extinction, probably as a consequence of massive Siberian volcanism, enabling a methanogenic expansion by removal of nickel limitation. Collectively, these results are consistent with the instigation of Earth’s greatest mass extinction by a specific microbial innovation.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Biological Engineering; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences; Lorenz Center (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)
Rothman, D. H., G. P. Fournier, K. L. French, E. J. Alm, E. A. Boyle, C. Cao, and R. E. Summons. “Methanogenic Burst in the End-Permian Carbon Cycle.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, no. 15 (March 31, 2014): 5462–5467.
Final published version