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The Permian is a geologic period and system which extends from 298.9 to 252.17 (Million years ago). It is the last period of the Paleozoic Era, following the Carboniferous Period and preceding the Triassic Period of the Mesozoic Era. It was first introduced in 1841 by geologist Sir Roderick Murchison, and is named after the ancient kingdom of Permia.

The Permian witnessed the diversification of the early amniotes into the ancestral groups of the mammals, turtles, lepidosaurs and archosaurs. The world at the time was dominated by a single supercontinent known as Pangaea, surrounded by a global ocean called Panthalassa. The extensive rainforests of the Carboniferous had disappeared, leaving behind vast regions of arid desert within the continental interior. Reptiles, who could better cope with these drier conditions, rose to dominance in lieu of their amphibian ancestors. The Permian Period (along with the Paleozoic Era) ended with the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, in which nearly 90% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial species died out. It would take well into the Triassic for life to recover from this catastrophe.
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Selected article on the Permian world and its legacies

Dictyoclostus bassi .
Brachiopods are marine animals that have hard "valves" (shells) on the upper and lower surfaces, unlike the left and right arrangement in bivalvemolluscs. Brachiopod valves are hinged at the rear end, while the front can be opened for feeding or closed for protection. Two major groups are recognized, articulate and inarticulate. Articulate brachiopods have toothed hinges and simple opening and closing muscles, while inarticulate brachiopods have untoothed hinges and a more complex system of muscles used to keep the two halves aligned. In a typical brachiopod a stalk-like pedicle projects from an opening in one of the valves, known as the pedicle valve, attaching the animal to the seabed.

Lineages of brachiopods that have both fossil and extant taxa appeared in the early Cambrian, Ordovician, and Carboniferous periods, respectively. Other lineages have arisen and then become extinct, sometimes during severe mass extinctions. At their peak in the Paleozoic era, the brachiopods were among the most abundant filter-feeders and reef-builders, and occupied other ecological niches, including swimming in the jet-propulsion style of scallops. However, after the Permian–Triassic extinction event, brachiopods recovered only a third of their former diversity. It was often thought that brachiopods were in decline after the Permian–Triassic extinction, and were out-competed by bivalves. However, a study in 1980 found both brachiopod and bivalve species increased from the Paleozoic to modern times, but bivalves increased faster; after the Permian–Triassic extinction, brachiopods for the first time became less diverse than bivalves. (see more...)

Selected article on the Permian in human science, culture and economics

Edward Drinker Cope (left) and Othniel Charles Marsh (right).
Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards: A Tale of Edward Drinker Cope, Othniel Charles Marsh, and the Gilded Age of Paleontology (2005) is a graphic novel written by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by the company Big Time Attic. The book tells a slightly fictionalized account of the Bone Wars, a period of intense excavation, speculation, and rivalry which led to a greater understanding of dinosaurs in the western United States. This novel is the first semi-fictional work written by Ottaviani; previously, he had taken no creative license with the characters he depicted, portraying them strictly according to historical sources.

Bone Sharps follows the two scientists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Marsh as they engage in an intense rivalry for prestige. Ottaviani has Cope and Marsh interact and meet many important figures of the Gilded Age, from P. T. Barnum to U.S. Grant, as the two scientists pursue their hotheaded and sometimes illegal acquisitions of fossils. Unlike in his previous books, "the scientists are the bad guys this time". Upon release, the novel received praise from critics for its exceptional historical content, although some reviewers wished more fiction had been woven into the story. (see more...)

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Life restoration of Acanthodes bronni.

Life restoration of Acanthodes bronni, an acanthodian from the Early Permian of Germany.

Photo credit: Nobu Tamura

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Skeletal mount of Scutosaurus.


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