Books Nonfiction

Devonian Dunkle

I picked up The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions thinking I might learn something about our planet and climate change and whether we are as doomed as I think we are. 

Boy, am I glad I did (!), if for no other reason than my introduction to dunkleosteus, the Devonian apex predator that gave me this magical line: 

“Our ancestors didn’t so much conquer the land as escape from the sea.” 

Some 360 million years ago, this bad boy (or girl) was swimming around above Cleveland, terrorizing — get this — the sea that used to exist above Cleveland (!!). 

Fossils show that Dunkle liked to binge and would sometimes eat so much that she would get sick and regurgitate her food.

A most relatable monster! 

Get it, girl.

Sadly, despite her armor plates and guillotine teeth, dunkleosteus went extinct because the ocean ran out of oxygen because there was too much algae due to an influx of new nutrients into the water. (Or something like that.) Things like this still happen today, albeit on a smaller and more localized scale, like when fertilizer-filled runoff from the U.S. midwest makes its way into the Gulf of Mexico and fuels supercharged algae blooms. 

Pour one out for Dunkle. 

(And maybe donate to an organization fighting climate change so we can avoid our next, self-induced mass extinction.)