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December 23, 2014 1:43 PM EST

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


This article originally appeared on World Science Festival

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