Meeting Information

Causes and Consequences of the End-Permian Mass Extinction

March 16, 2016
The American Center for Physics
College Park, MD

Doug ErwinDate: Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Speaker: Doug Erwin

Topic: Causes and Consequences of the End-Permian mass extinction

Time and Location: 1:00 PM, with Q&A to follow; in a 1st floor conference room at the American Center for Physics (, 1 Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD - off River Rd. Between Kenilworth Ave. and Paint Branch Parkway.

Abstract: The end-Permian mass extinction (251 million years ago) was the largest biodiversity crisis in the last 600 million years, eliminating perhaps 90% of all marine species (depending on how once counts) and perhaps 70% of terrestrial plants and animals. Our studies in southern China have demonstrated that the extinction occurred in about 60,000 years, coinciding with terrestrial extinctions, and with a phase of the massive Siberian flood basalt volcanism. We have found no evidence for an extra-terrestrial impact associated with this event, and discussions of the trigger focus on the environmental effects of the Siberian volcanism. The extinction was so pervasive that in its aftermath marine ecosystems were thoroughly restructured and many new clades of organisms originated, including mammals, dinosaurs, archosaurs, turtles and many others.

Biography: Doug Erwin is a senior scientist and curator in the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History, where he has worked since 1990. He has worked on a variety of problems involving large-scale evolutionary patterns, including the end-Permian mass extinction. His current research largely focuses on evolutionary novelty and innovation, particularly associated with the early history of animals and the Cambrian explosion.