Life on Earth gets wiped out every 27 million years

Much of life on Earth gets regularly wiped out every 27 million years, according to boffins. It had been thought that this was caused by a dark star named "Nemesis", but apparently that was wrong. The next globo-extinction event is due in about 16 million years' time.

A plot  of extinction intensity in the past. Credit: Richard K Bambach, Adrian  Melott

Call that a mass extinction? Rubbish. In the old days we had proper mass extinctions.

The revelations are made in a new paper from paleontologist Richard K Bambach of the Smithsonian Institution and astronomer Adrian Melott, flagged up by the Physics arXiv blog and viewable online here.

According to Bambach, there's no doubt at all that every 27 million years-odd, huge numbers of species suddenly become extinct. He says this is confirmed by "two modern, greatly improved paleontological datasets of fossil biodiversity" and that "an excess of extinction events are associated with this periodicity at 99% confidence". This regular mass slaughter has apparently taken place around 18 times, back into the remote past of half a billion years ago.

Continue Reading over at The

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