5 Major Extinctions—And One More We May Be Causing Right Now

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For everything on Earth, there has been a season: A time for continents to meet, a time for them to break apart, a time for warming and a time for cooling, a time for life to thrive and species to multiply—and a time for them to get obliterated by global catastrophes. Scientists generally recognize five major extinction events when, in very short order (on a geological timescale, anyway), much of life on Earth was utterly stomped into the fossil record. Here’s a look at the five major extinction events of epochs past, and a glimpse at the sixth one we might be causing right now.

World Science Festival


  • “Late Devonian Mass Extinction,” Natural History Museum
  • “The Five Worst Mass Extinctions,” Endangered Species International
  • “Big Five mass extinction events,” BBC
  • “End-Triassic extinction,” Encyclopedia Britannica
  • “Table 1: The ‘Big Five’ mass extinction events,” Nature
  • This article originally appeared on World Science Festival

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