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Describes the events of the mass extinction at the end of the Permian period 251 million years ago and the re-emergence of the idea of catastrophism. Was this catastrophic event caused by the impact of a huge meteorite or comet, or by prolonged volcanic eruption in Siberia? The evidence has been accumulating through the 1990s and into the 21st century. Integrates ideas from geologists, paleontologists, environmental modelers, geochemists, astronomers, and experts on biodiversity and conservation. Their working methods are described and explained, and the current disputes are revealed. Presents the implications of our understanding of crises in the past for the current biodiversity crisis.
Michael J. Benton is Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Head of Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol. Among his most recent books are Vertebrate Palaeontology, Basic Palaeontology and The Age of Dinosaurs in Russia and Mongolia (editor).
"A great tale, beautifully told"
– Niles Eldredge, American Museum of Natural History, author of Reinventing Darwin, Life in the Balance and Triumph of Evolution
"Michael Benton's splendid book brings back to Earth Science a sense of adventure [...] It is both a wonderfully good read and a valued reference"
– James Lovelock, author of Gaia and Homage to Gaia