A “biological annihilation” of wildlife in recent decades means a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history is under way and is more severe than previously feared, scientists suggest.
How fast do you think was the Earth’s fastest mass extinction? It took an absolute minimum of 12,000 years.
The Earth has had five ‘mass extinction’ in its history. The worst and fastest – the ‘Great Dying’ – came at the end of the Permian period, 252 million years ago when 95 per cent of all species dies out. Other words this mass extinction almost ended life on Earth as we know it. But it was a slow process, taking between 12,000 and 108,000 years to complete.
The Great Dying probably started with a volcano – an eruption that went on for a million years, vomiting up 1,4 million cubic miles of molten magma, and creating a plain of volcanic rock the size of western Europe. This pumped carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, overheating the planet and thawing huge frozen deposits of methane, which cranked up the temperature even further, the seas turned to acid and the world became the domain of micro-organisms that didn’t need oxygen to live.
According to new research a massive volcanic eruptions happened in Siberia, the land called the Siberian Traps. Around 95 per cent of marine life and 70 per cent of life on land was wiped out. It took life on Earth 10 million years to recover.
Mass extinctions take many thousands of years. They are catastrophic, but they don’t wipe everything out overnight, like climax of disaster movie. The extinction that killed the dinosaurs, for example, took 33,000 years. The 6-mile-wide asteroid that slammed into Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula wasn’t the only cause: the dinosaurs were on their way out anyway. In the million years before the impact,, the temperature had rapidly shifted several times. Huge volcanoes in India had been pumping up toxic fumes and warming the planet. Had the asteroid arrived a few millions years later, the dinosaurs might have survived – but if they had, humans probably wouldn’t have evolved.
Before scientists knew about the asteroid, some believed that small mammals had eaten all the dinosaur egg’s, devastating their numbers. Other theories for their disappearance included ‘wars’ between dinosaurs, or the idea of Paleo Weltschmerz (ancient world-weariness) – that they simply got tired of life.
Scientists suggest today we re in the middle of the sixth great extinction and many believe it is man-made one. Species are dying out 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived.
Scientists analysed both common and rare species and found billions of regional or local populations have been lost. They blame human overpopulation and overconsumption for the crisis and warn that it threatens the survival of human civilisation, with just a short window of time in which to act.
Until recently like all all other extinctions, it’s has been a slow burn – around 12,000 years. But it’s speeding up: 322 species of mammals have gone extinct since 1500 and nearly half of the 177 mammal species surveyed lost more than 80% of their distribution between 1900 and 2015.
If current rates continue, 75 percent of mammals species may be gone in the next 300 years.
The scientists found billions of populations of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have been lost all over the planet, leading them to say a sixth mass extinction has already progressed further than was thought.