Paul Olsen on foreshore of St Audrie's Bay in Somerset
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Searching for the secrets of extinction

Five times in the last half a billion years, tremendous, global-scale extinctions have wiped out a significant fraction of life on Earth.

The most recent and most familiar is the extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs - between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, about 65 million years ago.

But before that, 205 million years ago, was the "End-Triassic Event" - it set the stage for the Jurassic Period, which saw the rise to prominence of the dinosaurs.

Just what happened that killed off half the species on the planet, though, remains a mystery.

One researcher from the US has visited the UK to hunt for evidence of this event - and what he finds may undermine what he had built up for years.

Science reporter Jason Palmer went to Somerset to meet Professor Paul Olsen of Columbia University.

  • 13 Oct 2011