The Great Dying

Author: | Published: 1 Dec 2008

The disappearance of the dinosaurs is the most famous mass extinction in history, but it is not the only one and not even the biggest. The much earlier extinction that occurred between the Permian and Triassic periods about 250 million years ago destroyed more than 90% of marine species and 70% of land species, including insects and plants, unusually. This extinction deserves its name of "The Great Dying"; life on earth took a very different direction afterwards.

The financial and political worlds are already looking very different as a result of the crisis that has now been running for 18 months. Some very notable species have disappeared, for example independent investment banks like Lehman Brothers. This is quite consistent with the model of biological extinction in the distant past; species tend to die out when a long period of evolutionary stress is followed by a sudden catastrophe that finishes off...