252 million years ago, the Earth was in a really bad place. At the boundary of the Permian and Triassic periods, our biosphere experienced its most dramatic mass extinction event (so far), one so utterly complete that it has been solemnly termed the “Great Dying.” Precious little was spared, and it’s generally been…
As Charles Darwin showed nearly 150 years ago, species can adapt to changing environmental conditions through the trial-and-error process of natural selection. A discouraging new study shows that climate change is happening too fast for evolution to keep up, placing countless plant and animal species at risk.
The sixth mass extinction—the one that seven billion humans are doing their darnedest to trigger at this very moment—is shaping up to be like nothing our planet has ever seen. That’s the conclusion of a sweeping new analysis, which compared marine fossil records from Earth’s five previous mass extinction events to…
You don’t need a disastrous, immediate event to bring about the end of the world. Sometimes you just need evolution to take its toll.
How the dinosaurs went extinct is a contentious topic of endless scientific debate. Were they killed by a giant asteroid, a rash of volcanic eruptions, or some deadly combination of the two? Or, perhaps, we’ve been thinking about the problem all wrong.
History has a way of repeating itself. Humans are currently conducting a grand experiment with Earth’s climate, but the outcome of that experiment may be foretold. According to Penn State climate scientist Richard Alley, the future—or a somewhat diluted version of it—happened 55.9 million years ago.
The extinction at the end of the Permian period 252 million years ago was one of the darkest chapters in the history of life. Up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial life forms vanished in a geologic blink.
For nearly 40 years, paleontologists have argued over what really killed the dinosaurs. Was it an massive asteroid impact, or a spate of volcanic eruptions? Or what if a powerful impact ignited volcanoes, walloping Earth’s biosphere with a deadly 1-2 punch?
Last week, the human race met its very first Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star in the habitable zone. Kepler-452b’s discovery was met with resounding excitement, but the news was bittersweet. Because life on this distant world — if it exists at all — could be facing imminent extinction.
A new study suggests that thousands of species on Earth going extinct at a rate that far exceeds what’s typical. We are in the beginnings of a mass extinction, argue scientists, and it could lead to global starvation for humans — as well as many other animals.
If you want some epic disaster tales this evening, you can watch this How Stuff Works podcast about possible causes of the five mass extinctions that nearly extinguished all life on Earth. After that cheerful topic, I also talk about why scientists believe we're heading into a sixth mass extinction.
The Earth's climate has always changed. All species eventually become extinct. But a new study has brought into sharp relief the fact that humans have, in the context of geological timescales, produced near instantaneous planetary-scale disruption. We are sowing the seeds of havoc on the Earth, it suggests, and the…
This week a new paper revealed that humans have caused 322 animal extinctions over the past few centuries, and these numbers are alarming. But we can prevent more, using a tactic that some are calling "aggressive conservation."
Our species caused 322 animal extinctions over the past 500 years, with two-thirds of those occurring in the last two centuries, according to a paper published in a special issue of the journal Science this week.
There are so many ways the world could end, even in the next year, that it's impossible not to fantasize about some of them, some of the time. The question is, what do you do with these apocalyptic thoughts? It seems to me there are two basic choices.
A little over 250 million years ago, our planet experienced a mass extinction the likes of which have never been seen before or since. About 90% of all species were suddenly wiped out. And new study suggests it wasn't caused by an asteroid or super-volcano — but rather methane-spewing microbes.
A super volcano that creates a toxic ash cloud covering Earth. Gamma ray explosions. Shifting of magnetic fields. The robots. The bees. And even ourselves. If you want to give yourself a little scare, watch this video on the 10 things that could wipe out life on Earth. The idea of mass extinctions is riveting stuff.
Bill Nye teamed up with Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown of AsapSCIENCE to address one of the most pressing not-if-but-when questions in recent memory: how do we stop a major asteroid from colliding with Earth?