As cinco grandes extinções em massa

sexta-feira, julho 14, 2017

The big five mass extinctions

Biologists suspect we’re living through the sixth major mass extinction. Earth has witnessed five, when more than 75% of species disappeared. Palaeontologists spot them when species go missing from the global fossil record, including the iconic specimens shown here. “We don’t always know what caused them but most had something to do with rapid climate change”, says Melbourne Museum palaeontologist Rolf Schmidt.

End Ordovician, 444 million years ago, 86% of species lost

— Graptolite 2-3 cm length

Graptolites, like most Ordovician life, were sea creatures. They were filter-feeding animals and colony builders. Their demise over about a million years was probably caused by a short, severe ice age that lowered sea levels, possibly triggered by the uplift of the Appalachians. The newly exposed silicate rock sucked CO2 out of the atmosphere, chilling the planet.


Late Devonian, 375 million years ago, 75% of species lost
— Trilobite, 5 cm length

Trilobites were the most diverse and abundant of the animals that appeared in the Cambrian explosion 550 million years ago. Their great success was helped by their spiky armour and multifaceted eyes. They survived the first great extinction but were nearly wiped out in the second. The likely culprit was the newly evolved land plants that emerged, covering the planet during the Devonian period. Their deep roots stirred up the earth, releasing nutrients into the ocean. This might have triggered algal blooms which sucked oxygen out of the water, suffocating bottom dwellers like the trilobites.


Read more here/Leia mais aqui: Cosmos Magazine