Does our very existence hang in the balance?
It was a world before humans, birds and even dinosaurs.
252 millions years ago, planet Earth didn’t even have continents.
Instead, one vast expanse of land called Pangaea stretched from pole to pole, surrounded by an even vaster ocean, Panthalassa.
On Pangaea, mammal-like reptiles roamed through the dense forests. The air was heavy with the humming of insects.
But not just any insects. These were super insects, many times bigger than today’s.
The most famous is perhaps meganeuropsis, a giant dragonfly whose wings spanned 2.5ft and who could fly at speeds of 35mph.
And in Panthalassa swam giant, scorpion-like predators called eurypterids, and trilobites – mammoth shelled crustacea.
It was the Permian Era. And for these creatures, it was a paradise.
Then, suddenly, it ended.
The earth was hit by the biggest extinction event ever recorded. So big, scientists have come to call it the Great Dying.
With no warning, 93-97% of all species were wiped out on land and sea.
Gone was the meganeuropsis, eurypetrid, trilobites. Gone were the dense forests and the coral reefs that lined the ocean floor.
So devastating was the extinction, many species of insect died. The only time in the history of the planet that’s happened.
For hundreds of thousands of years, the very continuation of life on earth hung in the balance. It would take 10-20 million years before life started to recover.
And no one really knows why the Great Dying happened.
Throughout history, there have been extinction events.
Take the dinosaurs.
65 millions years ago, all the dinosaurs were wiped out.
And scientists know why.
The dinosaurs were killed by the impact from a huge meteor. They’ve even found the spot in Mexico where it hit.
But the great dying, 187 million years before the dinosaurs, remains a mystery.
What caused so many species to die out so quickly?
Of course, scientists and academics have theories…
Some believe a meteor hit. But with no geological evidence, this theory has been disputed.
Others believe it was climate change that caused it. And there is some evidence the planet was getting warmer. But this doesn’t explain how sudden the Great Dying was.
Perhaps the most likely theory involves the formation of a volcanic rift in the part of the world we now know as Siberia.
There’s evidence that towards the end of the Permian era, huge volcanic eruptions started along what’s known as the Siberian Trap. They were so enormous, they caused catastrophic change across the planet.
The Siberian Trap isn’t a volcano in the traditional sense.
There’s no cone-shaped mountain with a hole in the top. Instead, the volcano forms a long fissure, or crack in the ground and runs through 3.9 millions square metres of what’s now Eastern Russia.
When the eruption started, enough lava burst up to the surface to cover an area the size of France seven times over, followed by clouds of noxious gases.
These gasses, which included sulphur dioxide, caused acid rain so toxic it poisoned that vast ocean Panthalassa.
Carbon dioxide had also been released by the eruptions causing global warming on a massive and immediate scale. Greenhouse gases raised the earth’s temperature so dramatically that few plants, insects, animals or sealife could survive.
Vital food chains were destroyed. And that’s how 93% of life on earth came to be annihilated.
Or so the theory goes.
You have to admit, it sounds convincing…
But there are some who believe something much more terrifying was happening on earth 252 million years ago.
An alien super weapon.
Russian paleo-forensicologist Grigori Govnyuk has spent his life and career researching the possibility that aliens masterminded life on earth. And just as easily as they created life, they destroyed it.
Perhaps extraterrestrials were using Earth as a sort of laboratory where they could experiment with different life forms. Perhaps something went wrong.
Could the aliens have created a nuclear blast to halt the progress of a species that had got out of control?
Had the giant dragonflies or crabs simply got too big for the aliens to cope with? To stop them in their tracks, the aliens blew up a section of Siberia the size of Europe.
‘I think they used some sort of super weapon, possibly a nuclear weapon, to blast the area,’ says Grigori.
One type of animal survived the extinction – reptiles.
Was this on purpose? Had the aliens wanted reptiles to become dominant?
The next super-species to walk the earth were the dinosaurs, perhaps the greatest reptiles of all time. Mere coincidence?
But if Grigori is right, a question remains. Why?
Why did aliens want reptiles to dominate? And did they have a hand in the extinction of the dinosaurs, some 187 million years later?
Did they simply get bored of one life form and decide to replace it with another?
Terrifyingly, does that also apply to us human beings?
If an extraterrestrial organization is responsible for all life on earth, they must be responsible for us, too.
So what happens when we go too far? Will the aliens stop us in our tracks?
And what if they simply tire of us? Could we, like the dinosaurs, the meganeuropsis and the trilobite before us, simply be made extinct?
Whatever the answer, we’ll not know until it’s too late.
A terrifying cycle?
After the Permian era, Pangaea broke up and gradually moved to form the continents, oceans and seas as we know them today. Scientists agree this is a cycle that repeats every 300-400 million years. What they don’t understand is why. The mantle underneath the Earth’s surface may be moving like a giant conveyor belt. Or parts of it may be being propelled along by radioactive hotspots beneath the Earth’s surface. One thing’s for sure – the way our planet looks now won’t last forever…