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In Our Time: Science

The Late Devonian Extinction

Description

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the devastating mass extinctions of the Late Devonian Period, roughly 370 million years ago, when around 70 percent of species disappeared. Scientists are still trying to establish exactly what happened, when and why, but this was not as sudden as when an asteroid hits Earth. The Devonian Period had seen the first trees and soils and it had such a diversity of sea life that it’s known as the Age of Fishes, some of them massive and armoured, and, in one of the iconic stages in evolution, some of them moving onto land for the first time. One of the most important theories for the first stage of this extinction is that the new soils washed into oceans, leading to algal blooms that left the waters without oxygen and suffocated the marine life.

The image above is an abstract group of the huge, armoured Dunkleosteus fish, lost in the Late Devonian Extinction

With

Jessica Whiteside
Associate Professor of Geochemistry in the Department of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton

David Bond
Professor of Geology at the University of Hull

And

Mike Benton
Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology at the School of Life Sciences, University of Bristol.

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