299-251 mya

Life in the Permian Era

Marine Life

Fossils around the Pangea continental shelf show that reefs were big and had many sponge and coral species.


On land, there were huge swamp forests that dried out. The plants that depended on spores were being replaced by seed-bearing plants, which are called gymnosperms.


Bugs diversified during the Permian period. Many bugs, with mouths for piercing and eating plant materials, evolved during this time.

Land Animals

There were two important groups of land animals: Synapsids and Sauropsids.

Synapsids had skulls with a single temporal opening and are thought to be the ancestor that led to mammals.

Sauropsids had two skill openings and were the ancestors of the reptiles, including dinosaurs and birds.

Geography in the Permian Era

Climate of the Permian

At the beginning of the Permian period, glaciers was everywhere and the temperatures were cold. The climate warmed though the Permian period, by the end of the period the hot and dry conditions were extensive and may have caused a crisis in marine and terrestrial life. This climactic shift may have been partially caused by the smaller continents assembling in Pangea.


Most of the Earth's land area was incorporated into Pangea, which was surrounded by a gigantic world ocean called Panthalassa.

Pangea - The Supercontinent

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"The Great Dying"

The Permian period ended with the greatest mass extinction in Earth's history.

In very little Geologic Time, about 100,000 years, most of the living species on the planet had gone extinct. Scientists estimate that more than 95 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land animals had gone extinct.

What caused this extreme extinction?

Scientists are still unsure about what caused the mass extinction.

The Nuclear Winter Theory

Some scientists say the evidence points to volcanic activity in Siberia and China, areas in the northern part of Pangea. A series of massive eruptions would have caused a rapid cooling of world temperatures leading to increased glaciers. This was the "nuclear winter" which would have led to the death of photosynthetic organisms, which was the basis of most food chains. Lowered sea levels and volcanic fallout would account for the evidence of much higher levels of carbon dioxide in the oceans, which may have led to the collapse of marine ecosystems.

The Massive Asteriod

Other scientists think that a huge asteriod impacted the earth at the southern tip of the "C" in Pangea, which is now Australia. Whatever caused the extinction, the Great Dying closed the Paleozoic Era.