The greatest loss of biodiversity in the history of animal life occurred at the end of the Permian Period (∼252 million years ago). This biotic catastrophe coincided with an interval of widespread ocean anoxia and the eruption of one of Earth's largest continental flood basalt provinces, the Siberian Traps. Volatile release from basaltic magma and sedimentary strata during emplacement of the Siberian Traps can account for most end-Permian paleontological and geochemical observations. Climate change and, perhaps, destruction of the ozone layer can explain extinctions on land, whereas changes in ocean oxygen levels, CO2, pH, and temperature can account for extinction selectivity across marine animals. These emerging insights from geology, geochemistry, and paleobiology suggest that the end-Permian extinction may serve as an important ancient analog for twenty-first century oceans.