This is the conclusion to a review in Nature by Chris Thomas (York) of a new book by paleontologist Michael Novacek, Terra, about the possibility of a new, human-driven, mass extinction event:
“The geological perspective of Terra is bizarrely reassuring. Humans will presumably be gone within a few million years, perhaps sooner. If the past that Novacek describes is a guide to the future, global ecosystem processes will be restored some tens of thousands to a million years after our demise, and new forms of life over the ensuing millions of years will exploit the denuded planet we leave behind. Thirty million years on, things will be back to normal, albeit a very different ‘normal’ from before. It is good to be optimistic. The problem is living here in the meantime.”
Buy Terra at Amazon (other booksellers are available).
Geological evidence suggests that a 5km-diameter meteor may have exploded over North America around 13,000 years ago. This could explain the disappearance of several species of mammal around that time, including North American camels and the sabre-tooth tiger. Nature news item including impressive picture (subscription needed to get past abstract), BBC article.
Interesting article in Science looking at the role of latitude in extinction and speciation. The authors conclude: ” most efforts have aimed at identifying the geological, climatic, and ecological factors that might have elevated tropical speciation rates, our results suggest that both speciation and extinction vary with latitude and contributed importantly to the latitudinal diversity gradient.” You or your institution will need a subscription to get past the abstract.
Stunning pictures illustrating the appearance and evolution of life on Earth, and the conditions involved, here.
Sad article about attempts to find the baiji, the freshwater dolphin that lives/lived in the Yangtze in China, and which we may have just made extinct.
Article here; slideshow here.
Future changes in the global climate could have a catastrophic effect on highly mobile or migratory species, warns a UN report here.
A new study suggests that the decline in Australian marsupials may have been partly caused by the decline in the numbers of the top predator – the dingo.
BBC summary article here; original article here (open access).
The mean lifespan of a mammal species is around 2.5 million years, which is relatively brief. Study of a 22 million year rodent fossil record from Spain shows that their patterns of extinction are correlated with long astronomical cycles in the average distance of the Earth from the Sun, and in the angle of the Earth’s rotation. Both these factors might affect climate, which in turn affects species survival.
Full article from Nature here (subscription needed to get past abstract)
Podcast from Nature (free) discussing this finding here.