Research Fellows Directory
Professor Paul Wignall
University of Leeds
My research focuses on mass extinctions and their causes - this includes studies that attempt to precisely pin down the timing of these crises - did they happen one afternoon or in geologically brief intervals of a few thousand years? Latest research in Antarctica reveals a very short interval for the famous K-Pg event, a finding that supports the most-favoured cause for this event: giant meteorite impact. Compared with our understanding of this 65 million year old event, our knowledge of much earlier extinction crises is poorer although all/most apparently coincide with giant volcanic eruptions. This is even the case for the oldest mass extinction of all, 510 million years ago at the end of the early Cambrian. This wiped out many of the most common creatures around at this time - trilobites - and it coincides with the eruption of huge amounts of lava in Australia. However, how the antipodean lava eruptions caused environmental change bad enough to kill trilobites is far from understood.
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