Major Extinction Events

Many scientists believe dinosaurs became extinct because a giant meteor struck the Earth. In which modern-day country did the meteor hit?

And the answer: Mexico.    

The theory states that around 66 million years ago, an enormous meteor or comet the size of a mountain struck the Yucatán peninsula in modern-day Mexico. The incident set off a series of catastrophic events, dramatically cooling the planet and killing off about 75% of all life on Earth.

Photo credit: Natalia van D/Shutterstock. 

Throughout history, there have been a number of catastrophic events on Earth. Mass extinctions in Earth's history are usually so intensely widespread that as much as 95% of all species on Earth were wiped from the planet. To give a little context, let's take a closer look at some of Earth's mass extinction events.

  1. Ordovician-Silurian Extinction. 444 million years ago, our planet experienced its first massive change in the composition of the life which occupies it. Over a period of time stretching 30 million years, massive glaciers froze great amounts of water, lowering sea levels significantly. Many forms of sea life perished in the new conditions, resulting in an extinction of 85% of life on Earth.
  2. Permian-Triassic Extinction. 252 million years ago, disaster struck. In a series of the most catastrophic events in Earth's history (also referred to as the "Great Dying"), 96% of all marine species and about three of every four species on land died out. The event is attributed to a number of conditions, the most prevalent being an eruption of the 720,000 miles of volcanic complex in what is now Siberia. More than 14.5 trillion tons of carbon were released into the air, and the temperature of the Earth grew to unfathomable conditions. In fact, in the ocean closest to the equator, the water was as hot as 104° F (40° C).

Beyond those we've mentioned, there have been a couple other major extinction events on our planet. Learn more here.

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