12/23/2010 12:31 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Chinese Fossil Find: Discovery Of 20,000 Fossils Sheds Light On Life After Mass Extinction (PHOTOS)

An enormous cache of almost 20,000 fossils, exemplifying a near complete ecosystem from the Triassic period, has given scientists a rare view into life after a mass extinction.

After massive volcanic eruptions and devastating global warming wiped out 90 percent of life on earth nearly 250 million years ago, life found itself on the brink of nonexistence, according to Yahoo news.

The discovery of these fossils gives the clearest look into life after the cataclysmic end-Permian events. The data suggests that it took even longer for life to recover from the destruction than it did following the events that killed the dinosaurs:

"Recovery after most mass extinctions, including the K-T [that killed the dinosaurs], seems to have taken 1 million to 4 million years," Benton said. "The end-Permian event was so profound, killing perhaps 90 percent of species, that ecosystems had nothing left to hang their structure on."

The trove of unearthed fossils in a 50-foot thick slab of limestone took three years to excavate, and revealed now-extinct marine life as large as a thalattosaur of about 10 feet in length, according to the University of Bristol in the UK. The study was led by scientists from the Chengdu Geological Center in China and co-authored by Professor Michael Benton from Bristol.

20,000 Fossils Found