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The Late Devonian Extinction

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the disappearance of up to 70 per cent of species roughly 370 million years ago at the end of The Age of Fishes, and the range of possible causes.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the devastating mass extinctions of the Late Devonian Period, roughly 370 million years ago, when around 70 percent of species disappeared. Scientists are still trying to establish exactly what happened, when and why, but this was not as sudden as when an asteroid hits Earth. The Devonian Period had seen the first trees and soils and it had such a diversity of sea life that it’s known as the Age of Fishes, some of them massive and armoured, and, in one of the iconic stages in evolution, some of them moving onto land for the first time. One of the most important theories for the first stage of this extinction is that the new soils washed into oceans, leading to algal blooms that left the waters without oxygen and suffocated the marine life.

The image above is an abstract group of the huge, armoured Dunkleosteus fish, lost in the Late Devonian Extinction


Jessica Whiteside
Associate Professor of Geochemistry in the Department of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton

David Bond
Professor of Geology at the University of Hull


Mike Benton
Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology at the School of Life Sciences, University of Bristol.

Available now

49 minutes

Last on

Thu 11 Mar 2021 21:30



Mike Benton at the University of Bristol

David Bond at the University of Hull

Jessica Whiteside at the University of Southampton



Michael J. Benton and David A. T. Harper, Introduction to Paleobiology and the Fossil Record (Wiley-Blackwell, 2020)

Peter Brannen, The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions (Harper Collins, 2017)

Tony Hallam, Catastrophes and Lesser Calamities: The Causes of Mass Extinctions (Oxford University Press, 2004)

A. Hallam and P. B. Wignall, Mass Extinctions and their Aftermath (Oxford University Press, 1997)

George R. Mcghee, The Late Devonian Mass Extinction: The Frasnian/Famennian Crisis (Columbia University Press, 1996)

George R. Mcghee, When the Invasion of Land Failed: The Legacy of the Devonian Extinctions (Columbia University Press, 2013)

Paul B. Wignall, Extinction: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2019)


D. P. G. Bond and S. E. Grasby, ‘On the causes of mass extinctions’ (Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, vol 478, July 2017)

David P. G. Bond and Yadong Sun, ‘Global Warming and Mass Extinctions Associated With Large Igneous Province Volcanism’ (Advancing Earth and Space Science, 8 January 2021)

J. E. Marshall, ‘Prehistoric climate change damaged the ozone layer and led to a mass extinction’ (The Conversation, June 2020)

G. Racki and P. Wignall, ‘Devonian global changes- recent advances and challenges in different domains’ (Global and Planetary Change, July 2020)

L. C. Sallan and M. I. Coates, ‘End-Devonian extinction and a bottleneck in the early evolution of modern jawed vertebrates’ (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, vol 107, 2010)


Late Devonian extinction - Wikipedia


  • Thu 11 Mar 2021 09:00
  • Thu 11 Mar 2021 21:30

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