A molecular biomarker for end-Permian plant extinction in South China

Chunjiang Wang, Henk Visscher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


To help resolve current controversies surrounding the fundamental question of synchrony between end-Permian mass extinction on land and in the sea, we examined the marine Permian-Triassic reference section at Meishan (southeastern China) for land-derived molecular degradation products of pentacyclic triterpenoids with oleanane carbon skeletons, diagnostic for the Permian plant genus Gigantopteris. We identified a continuous quantitative record of mono-aromatic des-A-oleanane, which abruptly ends in the main marine extinction interval just below the Permian-Triassic boundary. This taxon-specific molecular biomarker, therefore, reveals in unmatched detail the timing and tempo of the demise of one of the most distinctive Permian plants and provides evidence of synchronous extinction among continental and marine organisms. Parallel reduction in the relative abundance of lignin phenols confirms that aridity-driven extinction was not restricted to Gigantopteris but likely affected the entire wetland flora of the equatorial South China microcontinent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1489-1494
Number of pages6
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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