Ancient plants produced substances to protect against the sun

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of scientists from China, Germany and the UK has shown that ancient plants produced substances that protected them from the sun.

This happened 250 million years ago, during the Permian mass extinction.

The Permian extinction is the largest of the five mass extinctions. Then, in a relatively short period of about 250 million years ago, approximately 80% of marine and terrestrial species died.

The cause of this disaster was the increased volcanic activity in Siberia. Because of this, there was too much carbon dioxide in the Earth‘s atmosphere, which led to rapid global warming.

Scientists suggest that as a result of this even the ozone layer was damaged.

This is indicated by the abundance of underdeveloped plant spores and pollen particles among fossils, which is associated with the mutagenic effect of ultraviolet radiation, from which the ozone layer no longer protected.

Scientists examined fossil pollen particles collected in southern Tibet. Using a special method, scientists recorded high concentrations of phenolic compounds in them.

They played the role of protection from the sun, namely from the type of ultraviolet – UV-B. So the plants were protected from its mutagenic action in order to ensure normal reproduction.

At the same time, the increase in the content of polyphenolic compounds in pollen coincided with the Permian mass extinction, which confirms the hypothesis of the destruction of the ozone layer in that period.

Ancient plants produced substances to protect against the sun
The pollen of Alisporites tenuicorpus studied in this paper (as seen from the scale, the pollen grain is about half the thickness of a human hair)

The action of ultraviolet radiation could have catastrophic consequences for the entire ecosystem of the Earth at that time.

So, because of this, plant biomass was thinning out, which led to a worsening of global warming. Herbivores also suffered because of this, the availability of food for which decreased.


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