65 million years ago, 60 to 80% of all life on this planet died. This is not the first time Earth has experienced mass extinctions. The fossil record shows a pattern of extinctions occurring roughly ever 26 million years. Scientists tend to agree that there have been 5 or 6 mass extinctions.
What could account for these mass extinctions? The list of suggested explanations is long, but most include
- geologic events (volcanoes)
- cosmic events (asteroids or comets)
- climatic events (hot versus cold)
- pathogenic events (diseases)
Currently the majority of evidence supports the idea that the Earth was struck by a large meteor 10-20km in diameter forming the Chicxulub Crater on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Some scientists disagree and suggest that massive volcanic eruptions could have precipitated the catastrophe.
1. Is there a pattern to when the mass extinctions occur?
Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org
2. Could we be in a mass extinction event now?