Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mass Extinctions Due to Sea Level Changes, Study Says

John Roach for National Geographic News

The rise and fall of the seas may have a more lethal toll on Earth's life than asteroids and supervolacanoes, according to a new study.
Over the past 540 million years, every increase in the rate of extinctions—including so-called mass extinctions—are linked to environmental changes wrought by changing sea levels.
Only some space-rock impacts and super volcanoes, on the other hand, are clearly linked to mass-extinction events, researchers say.
"To me, that is pretty striking," study leader Shanan Peters, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, said.
"[It] doesn't mean [sea level changes are] the only control, but it means that there is a statistical first-order predictability to the system that comes out at these turnovers in shallow marine settings."
The research is relevant today, as what many scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction gets underway. The current elevated rate of extinctions may be due to human-induced global warming experts say.

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