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Methane-producing bacteria may have leverage nickel from volcanism to flood the atmosphere with methane

It was called "The Great Dying".

I. A Time of Death and Desolation

If that title sounds dire it is because it was indeed a grim time for life on Earth.  Occurring about 252 and one-third million years ago, the mass extinction came at a time when life on Earth had become fairly advanced.  Terrestrial life consisted of a rich mix of large amphibians (think huge cousins of today's salamanders) and scaly reptilian dinosaur predecessors.  The seas teemed with life.

Then some sort of cataclysm swept the globe.  Ninety-six out of every one-hundred marine species (96%) went exinct, while seventy out of every one-hundred terrestrial vertebrate species (70%) also bit the metaphorical dust.  The exinction to this day remains the most severe mass extinction in Earth's history and what is believed to be the only mass extinction to feature a major extinction of insects -- traditionally among the Earth's most hardy species.

So what caused this severe event?

Permian skull
[Image Source: Climate Sight]

In line with all the hype and fervor surrounding global warming, some past researchers have suggested climate change may have played a role.  Criticism of this hypothesis has traditionally been that it's improper to assume the markers of climate change -- atmospheric and ocean carbon levels -- as causing ecological changes, when ecological changes can also cause climate change.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Daniel Rothman has become the latest researcher to throw his hat in the paleontological ring, offering up an interesting alternate hypothesis of how such a catastrophic climate change incident may have been triggered, leading to the Earth losing so much biodiversity.

The Great Dying marked the edge of the Permian.  Its end ushered in a new era -- the Triassic -- which would become the first of three major historical eras when the land-masses were ruled by large reptiles (dinosaurs).

To look for clues as to what caused The Great Dying, Professor Rothman dug back into sediments from the end of the Permian era.  Examing deposits in China, he found something intriguing.

Carbon levels in the sediment indeed appeared to rise quickly.  But the interesting part is that they rose so quickly that he feels that the sedimentary analysis rules out change by slower-acting forms of carbon release, such as volcanoes.

He also observed that oceanic nickel levels spiked 251 million years ago, as volcanoes in Siberia dumped tons of molten nickel into the sea.

II. What Caused Carbon Levels to Spike? 

Nickel is a ubiquitous catalyst in certain kinds of biochemical reactions.  Microorganisms, such as the ocean-based methane-producing bacterium methanosarcina, often use the metal to speed up reactions that produce carbon waste byproducts.

Thus Professor Rothman suggests that methanosarcina likely exploited the rising nickel levels to transform carbon dioxide and hydrogen into methane.  

In fact, Professor Rothman believes that methanosarcina fortuitously acquired the its triple metal-catalyzed methane-producing metabolic pathways about 251 million years ago, just as the nickel levels spiked.

Methanosarcina
Methanosarcina, pictured in an electron micrograph. [Image Source: KRLE]

The loss of atmospheric carbon dioxide would likely have twin adverse impacts -- first as plants require carbon dioxide to produce sugars, there likely would be mass loss of foliage globally; second as methane is a more potent warming gas than carbon dioxide, temperatures likely would have spiked globally.

The researcher's hypothesis was set forth on Dec. 4 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.  The meeting was held in San Francisco, Calif. at the Moscone Convention Center.

If he is correct it suggests that methanosarcina could be the most diabolical murderer in history, by far eclipsing mankind's worst impact in terms of speciation.

Not all experts are convinced.  Anthony Cohen, a researcher at the Open University in the United Kingdom, comments, '"[For the hypothesis to be correct] there are a lot of assumptions you have to make."

Sources: Live Science, AGU Meeting Schedule



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RE: Nope
By MartyLK on 12/18/2012 9:43:13 PM , Rating: 0
I did not say that it would happen this way. In fact, none of us have anything to fear for at least 5 billion years. But of all the things in the bible that people try to correlate to reality, and some of those thing they have to twist into a triple pretzel to get at any similarity to reality, this is one instance where it's easy to draw corollaries to science.

Maybe one of the ancient dudes who did the scribing was trippin' on some gnarly weed - or their version of LCD - and happened to see obscure visions of the distant future. Who knows. But a "star" evokes bright light. And satellites falling to the Earth would be burning up and looking like, in the ancient dude's drug haze, as stars.

Those stars could also be asteroids or meteorites streaking through the atmosphere.

From on part of the scripture verses, it depicts the Earth enduring some catastrophic even that the mountains would fall and the land would become level. That sounds like a planetoid hitting the Earth. And as well as that, matter being expelled into space and then falling back to Earth, could appear as falling stars.


RE: Nope
By spread on 12/19/2012 3:52:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But of all the things in the bible that people try to correlate to reality, and some of those thing they have to twist into a triple pretzel to get at any similarity to reality, this is one instance where it's easy to draw corollaries to science.


So you're saying the bible is very wrong on many things but very correct on others. Like a broken clock it's right twice a day.

So we should be using that clock because it's so accurate.


RE: Nope
By MartyLK on 12/19/2012 5:10:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So you're saying the bible is very wrong on many things but very correct on others.


I didn't say that. I said, or thought I effectively eluded to, that *people* tend to twist in triple-pretzels what the bibles says for it to come to their desired view of reality.

The bible specifically and in no uncertain terms states the "heavens and the Earth" were created in 6 24-hour periods. And that, through genealogical accounts in the bible, the Earth is about 6,000 to 10,000 years old.

http://goo.gl/Hrl4N

The Old Testament account in Genesis has God creating the "heavens and the Earth". The New Testament has God creating the whole universe. But I haven't seen "universe" mentioned in the Old Testament creation account.

Maybe the writers of the Old Testament thought the sky was all there was to the universe or existence. Whatever the case is, modern humanity now knows without a doubt the Earth is 4.5 billion years old and that the universe is closer to 15 billion years old.


RE: Nope
By drycrust3 on 12/20/2012 2:32:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The Old Testament account in Genesis has God creating the "heavens and the Earth" ...But I haven't seen "universe" mentioned in the Old Testament creation account.

You need to remember the Bible is a history book, not a scientific book. That doesn't mean the events recorded didn't happen as stated, they did, what it means is that typically history records the lead up to and the consequences of an event, even scientifically significant events.
For example, we know that on 8th August, 1945, an atomic bomb was operated over the city of Hiroshima in Japan, but most accounts of that event don't detail any of the scientific development that had to have taken place before the bomb was small enough and safe enough to be carried within an aircraft.
The Bible is meant to be read by people for whom one star is the same as another, and for whom the black stuff is completely empty. The Bible doesn't say one star is the same as another (it actually states they different), nor does the Bible say the black stuff is either empty or full of stuff. For our ancient ancestors, calling the universe "the Heavens" is not only scientifically correct, it is also quite sufficient. Remember there weren't printing presses, so every word literally costs money, so describing galaxies and gravitational lensing and redshift and blueshift and stuff like that would be a huge cost with no benefit to those people.
I'm sure there are people around who would say God was stupid for not explaining gravitational lensing to Moses, but then the people of that time would have thought God would have been stupid if he did, they would much preferred having a set of laws telling them what is right and what is wrong.


RE: Nope
By MartyLK on 12/20/2012 5:47:51 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
the Bible is a history book, not a scientific book. That doesn't mean the events recorded didn't happen as stated


The bible clearly explains the "heavens & the Earth" were created in 6 days. And not only does it say "days", it goes into further detail about those "days" being 24-hour periods with, "and the evening and the morning were the next day".

If you know anything about science, you'd know that the Earth actually is about 4.5 billion years old.

Now, one can think that because the Old Testament doesn't mention the "universe" in the creation account like the New Testament does, God didn't actually create the whole universe. But instead just created the Earth with it's environment - maybe actually just terraforming the Earth. And maybe not even really terraforming it, but rather just preparing it for us by wiping out dinosaurs and other threats to humanity.

I can see this happening easier than I can see the whole universe being only 6,000 to 10,000 years old.

Maybe 10,000 years ago, or whatever, a very powerful ancient alien race brought about our existence by planting 2 genetically manipulated people on the Earth in a specially prepared region. In some sense, the aliens could say they created the heavens and the earth. They would have been responsible for our existence.

I'm not saying any of this is true. But I find it difficult to believe the universe is only 10,000 years old.


RE: Nope
By drycrust3 on 12/20/2012 9:31:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But I find it difficult to believe the universe is only 10,000 years old.

I'm working on it.


RE: Nope
By drycrust3 on 1/6/2013 8:23:42 PM , Rating: 2
Well, so far I've discovered that there is a good chance Einstein's theories of relativity are wrong ... sorry, completely wrong.
Here is the link to a paper that goes into a lot of detail regarding Einstein's theories and provides mathematical evidence to show there are mistakes in his ideas.
http://www.gsjournal.net/old/physics/hua.pdf
If the writer is right, and he seems to be, then it means we've been wandering along the wrong path for the last 100 years.


RE: Nope
By drycrust3 on 1/9/2013 5:54:26 AM , Rating: 2
I've checked with various friends about this article, and one says that that particular journal doesn't do peer reviews, so that does affect the credibility of the article.
A creationist friend said that Einstein was treated with suspicion by the scientific community for a long time, so scientists would have carefully checked his work to make sure it is right, so he doubts that there are any mistakes in Einsteins work.
All in all, I think it's better to follow the status quo for now.


RE: Nope
By MartyLK on 12/19/2012 5:19:55 PM , Rating: 2
To add to what I said above, the Old Testament makes me think of ancient aliens with billion-year technology development brought about the Earth and its environment some kind of way.

The Old Testament seems more like an account of history in simplified terms. The New Testament seems like a government's effort to create a religion to control the populous.


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