This is something that Vladimir Silantyev and his colleagues' research touches upon.
“Our project is funded by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and is dedicated to the Permian Extinction that happened 252 million years ago. It was triggered by a sharp increase in tectonic activity in Siberia. Hot magma erupted through hundreds of cracks and covered 2 million square kilometers in a very short time span. Thus the Siberian traps came to be. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in catastrophic changes and led to the extinction of 90% of flora and fauna”, - says Dr. Silantyev, Chair of the Department of Paleontology and Stratigraphy, Director of the KFU Geological Museum.
The group now studies what traces these events left on the East European Platform, a territory where we live – and that is thousands of kilometers to the south from where Siberian traps emerged.
“Layer by layer we study geological sections, find fossils and determine how the geological catastrophe influenced living beings. Extinction is not a one-off event, it can take hundreds of thousands of years. There can be several phases of extinction”, - explains Dr. Silantyev.
The research group uses different methods, such as scanning microscopy, X-ray tomography, and isotopic chemistry. Skeletal remains are not rocks but very solid biomineral compounds. They can withstand hundreds of millions of years of different types of exposure. So some new equipment that Kazan University now has comes in handy while extracting physical and chemical information from them.
The obtained information can be useful not only for studying past but also for predicting future. As Dr. Silantyev points out, the conclusions may even be made by future generations of researchers, but he sincerely hopes his and his colleagues’ work will end up being beneficial.
The Kazanites already visited the fields and collected necessary specimens. Some of the results have already been published in Paleontogical Journal.
The group cooperates with Joseph Carter, Professor at the University of North Carolina. He currently coordinates the work on a new paleontological treatise on mollusks.
Vladimir Silantyev explains, “We collect data, prepare materials, compose charts where we place specific shellfish in the system of the organic world, describe them. That’s a demanding job serving to fill the gaps in the paleontogical chronicles. For Russian researchers it’s twice as hard because everything must be done in Russian and English”.