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China key to solving riddle of extinction
22/8/2005 14:47

The riddle of the greatest extinction of life on Earth will likely be solved in China, Wei Jiayong, a Chinese geologist, predicted yesterday.
Since 1988, geologists from Britain, Australia, Germany and the United States have made spot inspections at a mountainous area in Luodian County in southwestern China's Guizhou Province, hoping to find evidence for the mass extinction 250 million years ago among fossils from the late Permian and early Triassic periods.
There have been six mass extinctions on Earth. Among them, the most massive and influential was the extinction that occurred at the end of the Permian Period some 250 million years ago, when more than 90 percent of marine life perished in a short period of time. Only a small amount of primitive life remained.
The precise cause of that extinction remains a mystery.
In Loudian County, frequented by Chinese and foreign geologists, the core area called Big Guizhou Shoal is praised as a "treasure land for Triassic Period research."
Geologists have found that prior to the Permian extinction, the Earth experienced a major environmental change. However, areas around the Big Guizhou Shoal were barely affected.
Mike Orchard, president of the Triassic stratum department of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, said, "A variety of factors conspired toward the Permian extinction. China has provided unique fossils for research in this case and has made productive research in this field."
Orchard was speaking at the 4th International Symposium on Cambrian System, which opened yesterday in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province.
Paleontologists from 21 countries and regions have gathered again after a 15-year "recess."
The third Cambrian symposium was held in 1990 in the former Soviet Union.
According to Professor Peng Shanchi with the Research Institute of Geology and Paleontology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, holding the five-day symposium in China is an indication that the Chinese Cambrian system paleontology is respected by the world.