The Permian extinction—when life nearly came to an end
This mass extinction almost ended life on Earth as we know it.
"Welcome to the Black Triangle," said paleobiologist Cindy Looy as our van slowed to a stop in the gentle hills of the northern Czech Republic, a few miles from the German and Polish borders. The Black Triangle gets its name from the coal burned by nearby power plants. Decades of acid rain generated by power-plant emissions have devastated the region's ecosystems. Yet the treeless hills looked healthy and green.
I tried to hide my surprise. For months I'd been on the trail of the greatest natural disaster in Earth's history. About 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, something killed some 90 percent of the planet's species. Less than 5 percent of the animal species in the