By Peter Lloyd for MailOnline
Published: 19:00 GMT, 6 December 2018 | Updated: 23:38 GMT, 6 December 2018
An episode of extreme global warming that left ocean animals unable to breathe caused the biggest mass extinction in the Earth's history, research has shown.
The extinction event at the end of the Permian period 252 million years ago wiped out 96 per cent of all marine species and 70 per cent of land-dwelling vertebrates.
Scientists have linked what has become known as the 'Great Dying' with a series of massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia that filled the atmosphere with greenhouse gas.
But precisely what made the oceans so inhospitable to life has remained an unanswered question until now.
Earth could face a similar fate if predictions of runaway climate change in the modern world come true.
Breakthrough: An episode of extreme global warming that left ocean animals unable to breathe caused the biggest mass extinction in the Earth's history, research has shown
The new study, reported in the journal Science, suggests that as temperatures soared the warmer water could not hold enough oxygen for most marine creatures to survive.
Lessons from the Great Dying have major implications for the fate of today's warming world, say the US scientists.
If greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, ocean warming could reach 20 per cent of the level experienced in the late Permian by 2100, they point out.
By the year 2300 it could reach between 35 and 50 per cent of the Great Dying extreme.
Lead researcher Justin Penn, a doctoral student at the University of Washington, said: 'This study highlights the potential for a mass extinction arising from a similar mechanism under anthropogenic [human caused] climate change.'
Before the Siberian eruptions created a greenhouse-gas planet, the Earth's oceans had temperatures and oxygen levels similar to those present today.
In a series of computer simulations, the scientists raised greenhouse gases to match conditions during the Great Dying, causing surface ocean temperatures to increase by around 10C.
The model triggered