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Monday, April 24, 2006 CE

Are we witnessing the Sixth Mass Extinction?

The title sounds alarming and catastrophic. Many people will dismiss it right away and would say that I am exaggerating by insinuating that something like that is actually going on. I cannot say for sure that it is happening, that is why the title of the post has a question mark, however, I am going to present some facts in an objective way.

The world has undergone 5 mass extinctions of species. The first is called the Ordovician-Silurian extinction and occurred around 439 million years ago. 25% of marine families and 60% of marine genera were lost. The second one is called the Late devonian extinction and happened 364 million years ago. 22% of marine families and 57% of marine genera disappeared. The third, and the worst of all, called the Permian-Triassic extinction, occured about 251 million years ago. 95% percent of all specias died out, 53% of marine families, 84% of marine genera and 70% of land species also were gone. The fourth one is called the End Triassic extinction and happened 200 million years ago. 22% of marine families and 52 percent of marine genera disappeared. The fifth one is called the Cretacous-Tertiary extinction and occured 65 million years ago.. It is famous because it included the death of the dinosaurs. 16% of marine families, 47% of marine genera and 18% of lnd vertebrate families became extinct.

Extinction occurs all the time. Species disappear at a rate that oscillates between 1-10 species per year. This is called background extinction rate. Mass extinction occurs when this rate markedly increases causing great number of species to disappear in a short period of time. We have to remember that short period, in a geological scale can mean a couple thousand years.

Mass extinctions occur due to a major disruption in the Earth's ecosystems, either by internal causes, e.g, melting glaciers or volcanic activity; or external causes like asteroid impacts.

Currently, and for some years now, species are disappearing at a rate of 30000 per year. It this rate continues, 50% of all species will have disappeared in 100 years, enough to call it a mass extinction. There is a major disruption of Earth's ecosystems going on, due to global warming and due to the space that humankind is occupying as its population keeps to grow.

The solutions are not easy and will have to include a limitation in the increase of the population and the stopping of global warming. Both processes would take tens to hundreds of years, so in my opinion, there is little that can be done, except to try to minimize the effects of our own activity. There is another pathway. In the event of the collapse of civilization due to lack of fossil fuels or lack of food to feed the billions of people that will be born, war, famine and disease will take care of the human population and would be the means of nature to restore the equilibrium that has been broken.


Blogger Truth Seeker said...


Such a dark mood...


5:09 PM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...


I reconsidered and decided you are right. We're all gonna die!! Cats and dogs will be living together!! The Marsians will take over!! It will be a terrible mess!!

On the other hand:
- no more taxes
- who cares who is President
- who cares about Iraq
- who cares if I'm bald and fat


5:41 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...


I forgot you are the eternal optimist. Oil supplies will never end, CO2 does not heat the planet and new species appear from nowhere.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...


I think that one day oil supplies will end. But by then we'll be using something else for energy (AKA Brazil and Iceland) and materials - just like we don't use wood and metal for everything anymore.

I think that CO2 heats the planet. I just don't think the affect has near the impact of the sun, volcanoes, and wild fires.

I know things change, so here is a change for you to consider...

China just became the worlds 4th largest economy in the world and they will likely have a bigger economy than the US in 10 years.

I think that China and India are both about to make US consumption look trivial. Do you think they will voluntarily curtail their production of CO2 and their consumption of oil? How about Russia if they ever get their feet under them?


PS - if you can't change it, learn to love it... peace brother

9:57 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...


Burning ethanol still produces CO2. By showing the examples of China, India and Russia you are actually adding a bit of pessimism to your optimist analysis.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...


You must be tired. I was trying to be pessimistic. China, Russia, and India are not only going to produce CO2, they are gonna produce people!!


5:49 PM  
Blogger Sherril said...

I feel like I am interrupting a private conversation between you and Q, but hey, this is America, right? I can interrupt if i want to! I have a question for you, Marco. For a doctor, you seem to be more pessimistic than I would think a healer would be. How do you explain that?

Come to my blog and take the ColorQuiz. I am VERY curious what your results will be.


6:22 PM  
Blogger Bacon Eating Atheist Jew said...

One of the creationists main arguments against evolution is that we don't see anything evolve and that all we've seen is species become extinct.

Of course, during an extinction phase in which we are in, species become fewer.

And it is also true that after the mass extinctions are over is when more new species begin to evolve.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...


Jokes aside, even for the overtly optimist, the idea of the collapse of the our way of living creates a chill that is difficult to assimilate. I know that you are a realist that does not want to alarm people for no reason. As I said before, I really wish that we are in th best of the worlds. I do not want to see 30000 species disappearing every year.

12:38 AM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...


You do not interrupt, you are always welcomed. The first duty of a physician is the compromise with truth. False hope is unethical. I have been trained to be a realist, to give bad news if necessary and always to provide confort.

I will take a look tomorrow to the color quiz, it is getting late.

12:42 AM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...


How can a creationist explain that 99.5% of all the species that ever existed on Earth are extinct? According to them, we should be close to the end of the world.

12:45 AM  
Blogger udonman said...

yes it seem s we are in the mist of the sixth but the question ive failed to see asked is why of course it is becuase of the impact of humanity the impact of the tribal conflicts which have evolved into religions which are warfare based which war has always been a catalyst for technology with out regard for the enviroment look at the weapons of war that have become the technolgy we have to day then look at the impact each piece has on the world be it a car which needs fuel so we drill fro oil then it produces carbon monoxide which impacts the enviroment in ways we still dont fully understand most of the species dying off have direct connections to the late and early twentieth cenuries of human advancement

7:05 AM  
Blogger Alanita said...

I love your blog! Also, the different opinions and educated responses are always interesting to read.
It always fascinates me that at any given moment our lives can change drastically. Some of the changes that we think about often (obsess about) never happen.
On the contrary, some of the things we never expect to happen show their heads while we are blind-folded.
I agree that we need to protect our environment. It is every man's duty to protect the land that we are inhabiting.
p.s. stop by my site...I have a couple of new posts! :)

3:07 PM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...


Another link that might interest you...


9:16 PM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...


we didnt ask because we knew that you would take care of the question plus explain it all to us good thing too because i haven't heard that but about 978,000 times

9:19 PM  
Anonymous heroelac said...

forget my grammar, i´m not kind of good english writer

well, i may believe that wé´re on the 6th wave on extinction, but:
- the mass extinction, its only visible at a high geological time... we are to young in this scale of time, and in the future, there´ll be little evidence of our civilization at stones review (like we do for the past times)
- the organism that tells us about mass extinctions (in their absenses in posterior stratigraphy) only can be preserved as fossil with the correct taphonomy process (including that the fossils represented are the most abundant, and have the structures to be fossilised and be in the correct place at the correct moment)... so, if we not help with extrange stratigraphy, never look o think in an mass exctintion.. maybe, in our era, in our time, a several species will desapear by us, but the larger ones, the dominant ones (remeber, the more commun extinctions now its in species with an endemic distribution, low populations numbers, etc... the great species abundant extinct are contable)... so... in the future, the fossils that maybe be encountered they´re gonna be of species with large populations, and never gonna tell the little species, incluided arthropods, that eleved the rate of actual extinctions

1:23 AM  
Blogger Diane S. said...

I knew it was bad, but I had no idea we were losing 30 thousand species a year. This infuriates me. While cycles of mass extinction have been natural, the blame for this one sets right at the foot of mankind.

How dare we be so irresponsible with our planet.

And to whomever it was that asked, I don't expect China or Russia to reign in their oil consumption for a cleaner globe. Neither have proven to be good global citizens. That does not excuse us from being horrific global citizens, and we are. We are the neighbor everyone on the block hopes will move.

And I agree with you Doc. It is always a scientist first priority to seek out the truth, even when it ain't pretty. But, when faced with possible death, I think it's important to remember to nurture signs of life. The one does not negate the other.

Great post.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Diane S.,

The only time any other nation has ever liked the U.S. is when we did something that was good for them. Check you history books. Show me one exception. ONE!!!

The only time any other nation will ever like us is when we do what is good for them.

To hell with them and stop falling for the tripe!!

If we are disliked so much then why do so many come here - in hordes I might add? Because we aren't disliked, we are envied.

You can't prove that senseless, illogical statement that you made. Maybe what you mean is that you don't like us. Which is corner that liberals have painted themselves into in a desperate attempt to dethrown the Republicans.

Other nations should do what is best for themselves and we should do what is best for us. Whenever possible we should all work together.

It is illogical and stupid for a nation to do something bad for itself.

If we curtail our consumption, which goes hand-and-glove with curtailing our economy, and other nations do not curtail (India, China, Russia, Mexico, etc.) we will end up like the poor, pathetic French.


2:21 PM  

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