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Episodes 2017; 40(3): 189-199

Published online September 1, 2017


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Vladimir P. Amalitsky and Dmitry N. Sobolev – late nineteenth/ early twentieth century pioneers of modern concepts of palaeobiogeography, biosphere evolution and mass extinctions

Elena A. Jagt-Yazykova1*, Grzegorz Racki2

1Laboratory of Palaeobiology, University of Opole, Oleska 22, 45-052 Opole, Poland; *Corresponding author, E-mail: eyazykova@uni.opole.pl
2Department of Palaeontology and Stratigraphy, Faculty of Earth Sciences, University of Silesia, Będzińska 60, 41-200 Sosnowiec, Poland, E-mail: grzegorz.racki@us.edu.pl

Correspondence to:*E-mail: eyazykova@uni.opole.pl

Received: October 12, 2016; Revised: December 30, 2016; Accepted: December 30, 2016

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The great palaeontological achievements of the Russian scientists Amalitsky and Sobolev, who worked in Russia and Poland at the turn of nineteenth and twentieth centuries, have previously been outlined in detail. However, their original and surprisingly modern concepts of the development of life on earth have received far less attention. Amalitsky was one of the first scholars who considered the intimate relationship between floral and faunal evolution and the interdependence between a developing biosphere and geological processes. In fact, he documented, for the first time, the existence of a single palaeobiogeographical province during the Permian Period, which we now refer to as the supercontinent Pangaea. In 1896, Amalitsky’s main idea was that there were extended periods of gradual change in topography and biosphere of the earth, but that it was orogenic activity that had a marked impact on biotic crises. His pupil at Warsaw University, Sobolev, followed up on his work, and in fact came up with the theory of neocatastrophism in 1928. Thus, Amalitsky’s model predates the concept of cyclic evolution of the biosphere in dependence on orogenic cycles, with a prime role for volcanism, which is currently well known as the “volcanic greenhouse”. Sobolev also recognised four main mass extinctions, i.e., the late Ordovician, the late Devonian, the late Triassic and the Cretaceous/Paleogene ones, but somehow he ‘missed out on’ the end-Permian catastrophe.