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Earth to see sixth mass extinction?
Sat, 05 Mar 2011 16:08:47 GMT
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The last mass extinction on Earth happened at the end of Cretaceous period when many species, including the famous Tyrannosaurus rex, disappeared.
The Earth could be on the verge of the sixth mass extinction, which means many animal species might disappear within the next 300 years, a new study finds.

According to a study to be published in the journal Nature, human action is mostly to blame for the mass extinction, which researchers say will affect all organism on earth.

A mass extinction is referred to the loss of more than 75 percent of the Earth's species in a relatively short period of time.

The Earth has experienced five mass extinctions over the last 540 million years.

The last mass extinction on Earth happened at the end of Cretaceous period -- more than 65 million years ago -- when many species, including non-avian dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and large marine reptiles, disappeared.

“The cause of this mass extinction is clearly us. And the way we're doing that is by fragmenting habitats, by climate change that is largely human caused, by moving species around the Earth so that invasive species take over places where the endemic species of an area would normally live," said lead researcher Professor Anthony Barnosky, a paleontologist at the University of California, Berkley.

He said the mass extinction threatens “every category of plants and animals that you are familiar with,” including “mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, [and] many different kinds of plants.”

Barnosky warned that the Earth could face the sixth mass extinction “in as little as three to 22 centuries” unless humans change their habits and implement effective conservation methods to save critically endangered and potentially threatened species.

According to the study, four billion species have evolved on Earth over the last 3.5 billion years while about 99 percent of them are now extinct.

Biologists estimate that within the past 500 years, at least 80 mammal species have gone extinct out of a starting total of 5,570 species.

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