Taxonomy term

extinction

Algae ate themselves to death and caused a global extinction

Errant asteroids and toxic emissions from volcanic eruptions are the usual suspects in mass extinctions. But during the Ordovician, it was a million-year stretch of cooling ushered in by proliferating algae that triggered a worldwide glaciation and extinction event, according to a new study.

08 Nov 2018

Marine megafaunal extinction discovered

Extinctions of large land animals during the Pleistocene are well documented. In a new study, scientists report that marine megafauna also suffered severe losses several million years ago, around the time that the first hominid ancestors were emerging in Africa.

17 Nov 2017

End of ice age may have been too wet for megafauna

Between 15,000 and 11,000 years ago, dozens of ice-age megafauna species went extinct. Various causes, from climate-driven habitat changes to overhunting to extraterrestrial impacts, have been cited for these extinctions. But new research looking at fossils of large herbivores such as bison, horses and llama supports the idea that a worldwide uptick in moisture was a main driver of the extinction trend.

08 Sep 2017

Down to Earth With: Paleontologist Gerta Keller

The mass extinction that did in the dinosaurs is one of the best-known events in geology. It’s also one of the most contentious.

27 Apr 2017

Current marine extinction unprecedented

In today’s ocean, larger-bodied animals are more likely to become extinct than smaller creatures, according to a new study in Science. This is contrary to extinction patterns seen during other mass extinction events in Earth’s history, during which smaller species were hit the hardest.

03 Jan 2017

Humans, megafauna coexisted in Patagonia before extinction

During the last ice age, giant mammals roamed the wide-open steppes of what is now Patagonia. Around the time that humans were making their way down through North America and into South America, the climate began warming and large species of giant sloths and saber-toothed cats soon disappeared. Now, researchers looking at mitochondrial DNA from some of these megafaunal species are shedding light on the timing of the extinction and whether encroaching humans or changing climate — or both — were to blame for their disappearance.

11 Oct 2016

The current extinction of life will leave a scant fossil record

Life on Earth has endured five major mass extinctions, known as the “Big Five.” We know about these past events thanks to fossils: During mass extinctions, many species evident in the rock record disappeared from Earth relatively quickly. Today, human alteration of the environment is driving what scientists call the sixth great extinction, but according to new research, the current extinction differs from the Big Five in a key way: Much of the life facing extermination today will likely not be preserved as fossils. This means that, to future paleontologists looking at the rock record from today, the sixth extinction might not appear to have been such a major event.

05 Sep 2016

Seeds may have saved bird-like dinosaurs from extinction

About 66 million years ago, nearly three-quarters of life on Earth, including all species of nonavian dinosaurs, were wiped out. However, a few species survived the mass extinction event, including the Neornithes, the ancestors of modern birds. A new study suggests they may have done so by relying on seeds when other food sources were scarce.

04 Aug 2016

Mercury levels support volcanic role in end-Cretaceous extinction

The end-Cretaceous extinction, known for finishing off the last dinosaurs about 66 million years ago, often evokes scenes of a large asteroid hurtling toward Earth. However, new evidence supports a growing consensus that the massive bolide wasn’t the only hazard that life on Earth had to contend with: A prolonged bout of major volcanic eruptions was also spewing climate-altering gases and other emissions such as mercury into the atmosphere.

28 Apr 2016

Mammoths may have suffered from bone disease

The demise of mammoths, which went extinct by the end of the Pleistocene about 12,000 years ago, is thought to have been brought about by a combination of climate change and overhunting by early humans. A new study indicates that another culprit might have contributed as well: Mammoth bones retrieved from Northern Eurasia — from sedimentary strata close to the animals’ last known appearance in the fossil record — appear to show evidence for bone diseases associated with nutrient deficiencies.
 
28 Feb 2016

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