For doomsday preppers, or those who believe that the world nears its end so they need to prepare, mass extinction of any sort is not a distant reality. But exactly how can one survive mass extinction and ensure that their species live until the next millennia? Science points to breeding young as the most effective strategy in surviving a mass extinction, at least for the therapsid Lystrosaurus.
A team of scientists from The Field Museum investigated how a certain species of early reptiles and mammals survive the mass extinction some 252 million years ago. They found a rather peculiar adaptation pattern.
By examining some unearthed bones of extinct therapsid Lystrosaurus, the early ancestors of modern-day mammals, scientists saw a unique adaptation pattern that tends to ensure the species’ survival.
According to the study, which was published in the Scientific Reports, a significant distinction was found in the microstructure of therapsid Lystrosaurus’ bones as well as their body size distribution before and after the epic Permo-Triassic Mass Extinction some 252 million years ago that erased most living creatures in the world.
“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. Yet, nearly all of the Lystrosaurus specimens we find from after the extinction are only 2-3 years old. This implies that they must have been breeding when they were still juveniles themselves,” said Ken Angielczyk, Field Museum’s paleontologist and the study’s co-author.
Another interesting result of the study was the evidence showing that after the Permo-Triassic extinction, therapsids breed earlier than their ancestors before the massive extinction. According to the researchers, this is their way of ensuring its species would continue to thrive despite the possibility of another extinction and limited resources available for the herd.