With all the climate change and the mass extinctions going on these days, it’s only natural for scientists to do their best to investigate and to find a solution to our problems. The main issue is that unlike previous mass extinction events, the one we’re currently living through has been caused almost entirely by humans.
So researchers have been looking into a way to stop animals from dying off at such an accelerated fate and found out that nature can handle that by itself, via a well-known process referred to as evolution. So how do animals evolve to avoid die-offs? It turns out that just like the members of the Forever 27 club, animals live fast and die young to avoid extinction.
Sixth mass extinction
More and more scientists, looking at the state of the planet and at the amount of animals dying off every single day, are considering that we are living through the planet’s sixth mass extinction. This means that the amount of damage we’re causing the planet is equivalent to billions of tons of carbon being spewed into the atmosphere by volcanoes.
One of the biggest extinctions of this kind took place some 252 million years ago, as enormous volcanic eruptions from Siberia filled the atmosphere with carbon, changing the ocean’s chemistry and severely warming up the planet. This was the fifth mass extinction, and it led to the death of 95 percent of marine life and 70 percent of land life forms.
So of course, seeing as what is happening today is so similar to was happening all those hundreds of millions of years ago, experts are trying to gather as much information about these previous mass extinctions in order to better understand and hopefully fix what is going on today.
The capricious Lystrosaurus
And few creatures offer more insight than an extinct member of the therapsids, one particularly strange looking animal called the Lystrosaurus. Looking like a combination between a hippo and a naked mole rat, the animals used to grow to some two meters in length and to live for about 13 or 14 years.
But after the mass extinction took place, the animals’ biology learned to adapt. Via the process of evolution, the massive animal that lived about as long as a dog started changing. So, about 30 million years after the extinction, Lystrosaurus reached a maximum length equivalent to that of a big dog and only lived for about one or two years.
The creature, helped by the fact that it was one of the few species left, but also by the fact that they started breeding much earlier, then started spreading so much that it became the most widespread vertebrate on the planet. According to the researchers, this helped its chances of survival increase by as much as 40 percent.
Image source: Wikimedia