By Frank Parlato
The Penn Dixie Paleontological & Outdoor Education Center in Blasdell, a 54 acre fossil park featuring fossils from the Devonian Period some 380 million years ago, is partnering with the Centre for Himalayan Geology in Kashmir to create a new international fossil park in India.
The park will be located at a great rock system called Guryul Ravine near Khanmoh in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, India. The rear side of the ridge leads to the Dachigam National Park, which is a protected Wild Life Park for Kashmir Deer, locally known as the Hangul. Penn Dixie has been asked to provide logistical support and business consultation for the Kashmir Triassic Fossil Park. Penn Dixie geologists will offer aid in preserving rocks which scientist say have invaluable fossil wealth.
Of particular interest for preservation are fossils from the Permian-Triassic extinction event known also as the Great Dying, the largest mass extinction of life in earth – some 252 million years ago.
This mass extinction forms the geological boundary between the Permian and Triassic periods.
Details of this period are written in stone. Below a certain point in the accumulated layers in the ravine, fossils in the rocks shows signs of an ancient world teeming with life. Then in more recent layers, just above that point, signs of life all but vanish.
During a period of perhaps 60,000 years, seventy percent of land vertebrate specie became extinct. It was the only known mass extinction of insects.
Ninety-six percent of all marine species including trilobites, one of the most successful of all early animals, having roamed the oceans for over 270 million years, became extinct.
Trees, plants, lizards, proto-mammals, fish, mollusks, and microbes — were nearly wiped out.
Geologists are in accord with what happened and when it happened. Some 57% of all families and 83% of all genera on earth became extinct.
How it happened is still being studied and debated which makes the Kashmir site important for study.
Among geologist’s theories, culled from evidence in rocks in China and elsewhere, the Great Dying may have been caused by one or more of these pulses or phases:
*Plate tectonics pushed the continents together to form the super-continent Pangea and super-ocean Panthalassa causing weather patterns to shift, coastlines and marine ecosystems to vanish and sea levels to drop.
*Massive volcanism and explosions from the Siberian Traps, erupted continuously for tens of thousands of years, releasing some 1.5 million cubic kilometers of lava from a fissure in the crust, scorching the land, clouding the atmosphere, and releasing climate-altering greenhouse gases.
*Rising sea temperatures allowed methane gases trapped under sediment on the ocean floors to become dislodged causing depletion of oxygen, increasingly dry and parched land and a shift in ocean circulation.
A bright meteor, estimated to be larger than Mount Everest, collided with Earth releasing energy equivalent to several million nuclear weapons detonating simultaneously. The blast swept over a large area, killing everything in its path and threw debris into the sky obscuring the Sun, and hindering photosynthesis that drives most ecosystems.
The heat released CO2 and SO2 from the vaporization of rocks, and ignited the world’s forests — releasing more CO2 and induced global warming.
Subsequent meteoric debris rained down for months and its toxic compounds poisoned much of what little life remained.
Only a few dinosaurs, pterosaurs, turtles, crocodilians and primitive mammals barely survived the extinction.
The Paleozoic Era ended with the extinction and it took life on land more than 10 million years into the Mesozoic to recover. After about 20 million years, dinosaurs ruled the land for the next 200 million years.
It is sponsored by the Jamnu &Kashmir tourism department and the Centre for Himalayan Geology under the guidance of Environmental Policy Group.
The department of geology and geophysics of the University of Kashmir agreed to shift some of their fossils to the park from its campus. A museum for displaying the artefacts is planned to be part of the park.
And staff from Penn Dixie of Blasdell, New York, will have a leading role in advising on the creation and operations of what may become one of the world’s premier fossil parks.
Penn Dixie’s fossil park in Blasdell was ranked by The Geological Society of America as the No. 1 fossil park in the USA in 2011.
It is owned and operated by the Hamburg Natural History Society, Inc