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This content is taken from the University of Cape Town's online course, Extinctions: Past and Present. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds This week we spoke about the End Permian extinction event, we chatted to Mike Day about his research into the Guadalupian extinction event that preceded the end of the Permian extinction event. We also had the opportunity to talk to Dr Roger Smith about his research into the Permian and Triassic of South Africa. John Anderson gave us a fascinating insight into the Triassic plants and insects of the time. This extinction event is significant since this one is considered to be the biggest mass extinction of all time. The lesson we learn from this extinction event is that even though life on Earth was almost wiped out, some species survive and help establish the new ecosystems.

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds We see also that aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems recover at different rates, with aquatic environments recovering faster than terrestrial ones. One thing is clear though, the dominant animals of the time recede to the background and new, better adapted taxa, to the changing world, become the dominant forms. In the next week we’re going to talk about the end of the Triassic extinction event and we will talk to a number of different scientists. We will chat to a dinosaur palaeontologist, we will talk to an archaeologist and we will have the opportunity to visit the wonderful fossil locality called Langebaanweg .

Lessons from the past

We have seen how the End Permian extinction event was a significant influence on the development of life, and in determining which species survived and diversified. Although life was almost wiped out, some species survived. Even more so than with the other events, the dominant taxa receded to the background making way for new better adapted forms to evolve in the changed environments.

Next week, I will tackle the two most ‘recent’ extinction events - the End Triassic (208 mya) and the End Cretaceous (65 mya). The Cretaceous period is probably the one we are most familiar with since it is often linked to the domination and fall of dinosaurs. During the week, I will talk to several scientists, including a young paleontologist from my own lab who will chat with us about how new research is improving our understanding of dinosaur evolution.

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This video is from the free online course:

Extinctions: Past and Present

University of Cape Town