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Extinctions of the Earth

Updated on September 16, 2017

Did you know since the beginning of life on Earth there have been 20 global extinctions? Six extinctions have occurred in the past nine million years. In a past 540,000 million years there have been 5 major extinctions, the last one being 65,000 million years ago.

The last humanoid extinction was about 30,000 to 25,000 years ago. I am talking about the disappearance of the Neanderthal man. The Neanderthal man was a subspecies of current Homo sapiens. Causes for this extinction have been widely debated.

Global Extinctions

  • The Precambrian Extinction: (4.6 billion years - 523 million years ago) About 650 million years ago, seventy percent of the dominant Precambrian flora and fauna perished in the first great extinction. The Precambrian extinction has been correlated with a large glaciation event that occurred about 600 million years ago. This event was of such severity that almost all micro-organisms were completely wiped out.
  • The Vendian Extinction: (543 - 523 million years ago) The Vendian extinction is currently under debate as to whether an extinction event occurred or not.
  • The Cambrian Extinction: (543 - 510 million years ago) According to James F.Miller of Southwest Missouri State University, research undertaken by Miller, evidence of early Ordovician sediment of glacial origin has been uncovered in South America. Miller suggests in his hypothesis that this evidence of continental glaciation at the Cambrian-Ordovician boundary is responsible for a decrease in global climatic conditions. Such a decline in temperature is implied by Miller to destroy Cambrian fauna which are intolerant of cooler conditions, producing a mass extinction of mostly warm water species. He also suggests that a significant continental glaciation would bring large amounts of ocean water onto the land in the form of frozen glacial ice.
  • The Ordovician Extinction - (510 - 438 million years ago) 2nd most devastating in Earth history and killed more than 100 families of marine life. Most accepted theory of the cause of extinction was "the glaciation of the continent Gondwana at the end of the period. Evidence for this glaciation event is provided by glacial deposits discovered by geologists in the Saharan Desert. When Gondwana passed over the north pole in the Ordovician, global climatic cooling occurred to such a degree that there was global large-scale continental resulting in widespread glaciation. This glaciation event also caused a lowering of sea level worldwide as large amounts of water became tied up in ice sheets.
  • The Devonian Extinction - (408 - 360 million years ago) Evidence suggests that warm water marine species were the most severely affected in this extinction event. This evidence has lead many paleontologists to attribute the Devonian extinction to an episode of global cooling, similar to the event which is thought to have cause the late Ordovician mass extinction. Extra-terrestrial impact has also been a theory.
  • The Permian Extinction - (286 -248 million years ago) Greatest mass extinction in Earth's history. It killed 90-95% of all marine species
  • The Cretaceous Extinction - (144-65 million years ago) Over 85% of all species died in the End-Cretaceous extinction., making it the second largest mass extinction event in geological history. This extinction event has generated considerable public interest, primarily because of its role in the demise of the dinosaurs. Evidence of a catastrophe at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary is found in sediment layers which were deposited at the same time that the extinction occurred. This layer contains unusually high concentrations of Iridium, found only in the earth's mantle, and in extra-terrestrial meteors and comets. The high concentrations of Iridium in the boundary layer has also been attributed to another source, the mantle of the earth. It has been speculated by some scientists that the Iridium layer may be the result of a massive volcanic eruption. Some paleontologists believe that the widespread distribution of this Iridium layer could have only been caused by meteorite impact.
  • The Holocene Extinction - (the last 10,000 years) The Holocene is the name given to the last the time since the end of the last major "ice age." Since then, there have been small-scale climate shifts -- notably the "Little Ice Age" between about 1200 and 1700 A.D. -- but in general, the Holocene has been a relatively warm period in between ice ages. Between 20,000 and two million species have actually become extinct. An average of up to 140,000 species per year. The Holocene extinction may be regarded as continuing into the 21st century.

The cycle of life
The cycle of life

What is human extinction?? What are the current risks?

Do you think modern humans are in danger of a mass extinction?

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    • profile image

      P.MOTHILAL YUVARAJ 5 years ago


    • Rod Marsden profile image

      Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      I think there are good reasons to be concerned about extinctions right now. Certainly in Australia there are a number of animals and birds in danger because of habitat destruction by humans. Part of the reason for this is the thing people in authority are afraid to discuss. The thing is over population of the planet by humans. Strangely enough, it may be one of the reasons why humans will bite the dust before our time should be up.

      Of course a great hunk of rock might fall from the sky ending the issue. You never know. It has as you know happened before.

    • profile image

      sairel 6 years ago

      i learned from it.,.u made a good job

    • Mr Tindle profile image

      Mr Tindle 6 years ago


      This is some interesting information about all of the extinctions that have happened throughout history.

    • figment profile image

      Karli Duran 7 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for comments! :)

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      It's funny, was just mentioning the discovery of Neanderthal genes in like 4% of human dna (according to one study anyway). This is good stuff. I had to do a paper for an undergraduate class that argued for or against manned space flight and this was the premise for my arguing for it. The history is pretty clear that being the "dominant species" on this little marble floating in space is a temporary gig, period. Yes, temporary can be in the millions of years range, but, no promises on how many commas you get in the odometer reading of a species.

      Good stuff. :)

    • figment profile image

      Karli Duran 7 years ago from Texas

      Thank you

    • Moulik Mistry profile image

      Moulik Mistry 7 years ago from Burdwan, West Bengal, India

      Ah, this is great hub - is the doom's day coming near...

    • figment profile image

      Karli Duran 7 years ago from Texas

      thank you for your comments.

    • samboiam profile image

      samboiam 7 years ago from Texas

      Thought provoking and interesting. You did a great job. Keep it up.

    • alexandriaruthk profile image

      alexandriaruthk 7 years ago from US

      interesting and educational, thank you,

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 7 years ago from Florida

      Wow, Figment! Irony of ironies! Research today turned up just how close we are to extinction and really opened my eyes. I see your eyes have been opened already! No wonder you weren't writing. I wasn't sure if I had the strength to share what I found out today! You are awesome! That's a load off my mind, you told them!

      Big Hugs! Maybe now I can sleep!

    • hypnodude profile image

      Andrea 7 years ago from Italy

      Surely we are not so far away from that. If you take pollution, nuclear wastes, destroying resources, genetically modified food and human stupidity, put them together and shake them there is no need for an asteroid to hit the Earth. Well said, rated up. :)

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Hi, figment! I was just reading "Sweet Thursday" by Steinbeck, and one of the characters mentions that since we are so hell-bent on survival, we are only inviting extinction. Mr. Steinbeck wrote that in the 50's!

      Wonderful and thought-provoking hub!

    • Lynda Gary profile image

      Lynda Gary 7 years ago

      Interesting topic. Good pics. :)

      Thank you.

    • Rafini profile image

      Rafini 7 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

      Excellently presented considerations.

    • profile image

      ralwus 7 years ago

      I have seen a lot of this on TV and if it comes, it comes. Not much we can do is there?

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 7 years ago from Virginia

      Very interesting and thougt provoking. And so well presented, figment! Well done!!!!!!

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Reading this hub definitely brought home the possibility that we are without a doubt are in danger of facing extinction. I just think that we are ourselves will be the cause of such, as we are too careless and insensitive to the our planet. Thank for raising awareness to us all!