Has the process of sixth MASS EXTINCTION already begun?
New Delhi, Oct 09: When teen environment activist Greta Thunberg warned the world that "We are at the beginning of a mass extinction", many may have thought that she couldn't be serious. Yes, the planet is becoming hotter, yes, there is pollution and deforestation, but is the situation really so grave that it poses threat to our very existence?
Well, the answer is 'YES' and the process may already have begun. The unpredictable and erratic natural calamities are on a rise. And if we carefully give a thought, we can clearly see that the weather around us has changed in the last decade or so.
Dinosaurs became extinct from earth about 66 million years ago. They roamed the planet for at least 230 million years. That is a long time, much much longer than the time humans have existed on earth. It was an era when the shape of the continents was different. All the landmass was together and there were no continents.
After reigning the earth for 230 million years, something happened which changed the climate of the planet some 66 million years ago, and around 75 per cent of the species were wiped out from the planet. Whenever there has been a sharp change in the average temperature of the earth, the planet has witnessed mass extinction. The extinction that wiped out dinosaur is called the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event and it was the fifth mass extinction since life evolved on earth.
There are various theories to explain the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction and all of them try to explain what resulted in sudden climate change. Theories may be different, but the established fact is that rapid changes in temperature pose a big risk to life forms on the planet. In any given era, the lives on the planet would have evolved to be able to survive in particular climatic conditions. And when these conditions change, species do not get time to acclimatise and go extinct.
Five major MASS EXTINCTIONS in earth's history:
End Ordovician - 444 million years ago:
86 per cent of the species that existed then went extinct. The main reason was the beginning of severe ice age that lowered sea levels. The planet's temperature fell drastically chilling the planet. This is said to happen because the level of carbon dioxide, which has the property to trap heat, fell. Scientists are of opinion that the Earth was covered in such a vast quantity of plants that they removed too much carbon dioxide from the air which drastically reduced the temperature.
Late Devonian - 375 million years ago:
75 per cent of the species that existed then went extinct. The reasons are many, but broadly it can be said that the extinction happened because of the drop in oxygen level on earth. The surface of the earth was enveloped by giant plants and their deep roots released nutrients into the oceans. The nutrient-rich oceans supported the growth of algae-like life forms. This algal bloom sucked the oxygen out of the water and ocean animals started to become extinct. The theory also says that active volcanos emitted too much ash and volcanic debris into the atmosphere which blocked the sunlight, and the temperature fell drastically.