ISLAMABAD-In a new study, Stanford researchers have strongly bolstered the theory that a lack of oxygen in Earth’s oceans contributed to a devastating die-off approximately 444 million years ago. The new results further indicate that these anoxic (little- to no-oxygen) conditions lasted over 3 million years – significantly longer than similar biodiversity-crushing spells in our planet’s history. Beyond deepening understandings of ancient mass extinction events, the findings have relevance for today: Global climate change is contributing to declining oxygen levels in the open ocean and coastal waters, a process that likely spells doom for a variety of species. “Our study has squeezed out a lot of the remaining uncertainty over the extent and intensity of the anoxic conditions during a mass die-off that occurred hundreds of millions of years ago,” said lead author Richard George Stockey, a graduate student in the lab of study co-author Erik Sperling, an assistant professor of geological sciences at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth).

“But the findings are not limited to that one biological cataclysm.”