Harries, Peter J. Department of Geology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.
Flessa, Karl Walter Division of Earth Sciences, National Science Foundation, Washington, DC.
Last reviewed:January 2020
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The death and disappearance of a species. The fossil record shows that extinctions have been occurring throughout the history of life. Mass extinctions refer to the loss of a large number of species representing broad taxonomic, ecologic, and geographic ranges in a relatively short period of time. Episodes of mass extinction occur at times of rapid global environmental change; five major events are known from the fossil record of the past 600 million years. Human activity is causing extinctions on a scale comparable to the mass extinctions in the fossil record. See also: Extinction; Fossil; Global climate change; Mass extinctions; Paleontology; Speciation
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