You wouldn’t think living like James Dean, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin with a “live free, die young” attitude would be a great strategy to survive the Permo-Triassic Mass Extinction 252 millions ago would be viable, but it’s that attitude that say the lystrosaurus make it.
Lystrosaurus avoids the Great Dying
According to a new study published in Scientific Reports, paleontologists are claiming that the lystrosaurus changed its development to something more akin to a 16-year-old with his dad’s car keys, a gram of cocaine and a bottle of whiskey. Yet, somehow, this behavior seemed to have saved the species live during the Permo-Triassic Mass Extinction, or Great Dying that occurred in the Phanerozoic eon.
This mass extinction was caused by the eruption of a series of volcanoes in Siberia that left virtual no sea life killing 80-96% of marine species while sparing about 30% of all the creatures that lived on land. While it took about five million years to recover from the event and the loss of that many species, some actually did quite well in a “Mad Max” sort of apocalyptic nightmare well before gas was a commodity.
One of these species, according to a team from the Field Museum in Chicago who wrote the paper, was the lystrosaurus which began having kids early and dying young. You wouldn’t think that much of a “survivorship model” but it worked for them.
Other therpsids did well as well, but the study focused on the lystrosaurus.
A study in body size distributions
Essentially, the scientists found evidence of shorter life spans than their ancestors, but no behavioral (tough as they are dinosaurs) nor physical proof of early breeding, but it’s the logical conclusion. The animals got a whole lot smaller, think teenage-equivalent hippo becomes an adult Great Dane.
“Before the Permo-Triassic extinction, the therapsid lystrosaurus had a life span of about 13 or 14 years based on the record of growth preserved in their bones,” said co-author Ken Angielczyk. “Yet, nearly all of the lystrosaurus specimens we find from after the extinction are only two to three years old. This implies that they must have been breeding when they were still juveniles themselves.”
It’s fairly easy to see, a bunch of volcanoes are going off somewhere else in the world that you can’t see but all your friends, and enemies alike, are just dying. They wouldn’t have noticed a massive extinction especially as they seemed pretty please to just get the neighbor’s daughter pregnant and then jump on their motorcycles and die young. You get the metaphor.
According to the findings and theories presented in this paper, they just adopted a “punk-rock,” screw the world, live for the day sort of mentality that saw early breeding and higher mortality rates than pre-extinction lystrosaurus species.
According to the scientists, at the end of the day the strategy paid off for the lystrosaurus. My girlfriend recently threatened to leave me if I didn’t take my foot off the peddle a bit and slow way down on the drinking and the smoking. I’m pretty sure I know who is getting a copy of this study over the weekend when I see her next. If she points out that I’m not a lystrosaurus, I will point out that the lystrosaurus increased its survival by 40%. I will point this out while physically pointing to the world’s second most active volcano (Fuego, Guatemala) that is presently erupting again a mere 20 miles away from my house.f