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The oceans heat up and lose their oxygen, nasty bacteria take over, burping out lots of poisonous gas. What really looks like a universal way that this has happened is this global warming, leading to this terrible gas chamber atmosphere killing off life in the ocean and land.
It's not so much stuff from space that gets you; it's your own planet.
There were creatures right out of a science fiction movie, like plant-eating Lystrosaurs, and, ruining their day, monstrous Gorgons. There've been at least five major extinctions in the last 600 million years. Known as the Siberian Traps, these were no ordinary volcanoes. But still, the lava was in Siberia, not in the rest of the world, not in the whole ocean. Marine geochemist Lee Kump thinks he's found the answer.
The extinction ravaged the oceans, once filled with exotic animals. Most of us have heard of one, at the close of the Cretaceous, ending of the reign of the dinosaurs. The key is in how big volcanoes could change the environment, including the chemistry of the Permian ocean.
But then, about 250 million years ago, almost everything on sea and land died. That happened about 65 million years ago, when an asteroid the size of Mount Everest slammed into our planet, leaving a giant crater near what is now Mexico. To test his idea, he designed a computer model to simulate the Permian world.