A recent study has shown that the creatures that survived the mass extinction did so by evolving and living faster and dying younger. Published in the Scientific Reports journal on April 5, the results prove that therapsids adapted to the catastrophe by changing their life expectancies.
The catastrophe that we mentioned involved numerous volcanoes in Siberia that erupted and brought Hell on Earth 252 million years ago. The climate of the planet was radically changed due to the billions of carbon toxins shot into the atmosphere.
As a result, many species went extinct, but some managed to survive, as is the case of the therapsids, the ancient relatives of mammals. The study was conducted by paleontologists from the National Museum in Bloemfontein. Upon a thorough research, they discovered that the animals started breeding at a much younger age than their predecessors.
Lead author of the study Jennifer Botha-Brink has explained that before the extinction, the animal used to live for about fifteen years. However, the specimens they found that lived after the catastrophe are all aged from two to three years. This alone implies that they were breeding then being juvenile and not adults.
The appearance of the creature had also changed. It initially reached some meters in length and had a weight of some hundred kilograms, being roughly the size of the pygmy hippo. After the extinction, it decreased in size, becoming as large as a big dog.
However, by breeding at an earlier age, the therapsid managed to increase its survival chance by forty percent in the context of the unpredictable environment it lived in. Its case is not, however, singular. The Atlantic cod is known to have gone through similar changes because of the interference of the humans. By removing most of the largest specimens from the population, the size of the cod has shrunk significantly. The same can be seen in African monitor lizards.
According to Botha-Brink,
“With the world currently facing its sixth mass extinction, palaeontological research can help us understand how and why some animals, such as those like Lystrosaurus, thrived in the face of disaster.”
By studying the evolution and survival techniques of extinct species, we can better understand the current phenomenon, as well as predict the effects of climate change on modern species.
Image Source: Stock Market Insights