Questions for ‘Clues to the Great Dying’


Fossils of arthropods,  such as this trilobite, are common in rocks from the Permian but missing from later, Triassic rocks.

Dwergenpaartje/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

To accompany feature “Clues to the Great Dying” 


Before reading:

1.    Why are there no dinosaurs on Earth? What happened to them?

2.    Ocean creatures spend their entire lives in water. What might happen if the water changed in some way? What if the water became warmer or more acidic?

During reading:

1.    What is the Great Dying?

2.    What are placoderms?

3.    Beyond the effects of burning lava, how can volcanic eruptions affect life on Earth?

4.    What does a geochronologist do?

5.    Why did some of the scientists mentioned in this story go to the United Arab Emirates?

6.    Why did Matthew Clarkson look at boron in limestone? What did it tell his team?

7.    What happened when the carbon dioxide from the Siberian volcanoes dissolved in ocean water?

8.    How did the volcanoes’ carbon dioxide affect life on land?

9.    How much is the pH of Earth’s oceans expected to fall by the year 2100?

After reading:

1.    When burning fossil fuels (such as coal and gas) release gases into the air, Earth’s oceans can become more acidic. What, if anything, should be done about that and why? Working with a friend, come up with some 2 possible strategies to limit this problem.

2.    Many species have gone extinct in the past, and some are even going extinct today. Could the human species ever disappear completely? Explain your answer.


1.    Use information from the story to determine how long ago the dinosaurs went extinct.

2.    The continental United States covers some 7.7 million square kilometers. Use information from the story to determine how many cubic kilometers of lava erupted from the Siberian volcanoes.