For preview only. Get it at Amazon.com  #ad.


2011, Science  -   21 Comments
Ratings: 5.70/10 from 27 users.

ExtinctionsMore than 90 percent of all organisms that have ever lived on Earth are extinct. As new species evolve to fit ever changing ecological niches, older species fade away.

But the rate of extinction is far from constant. At least a handful of times in the last 500 million years, 50 to more than 90 percent of all species on Earth have disappeared in a geological blink of the eye.

Though these mass extinctions are deadly events, they open up the planet for new life-forms to emerge. Dinosaurs appeared after one of the biggest mass extinction events on Earth, the Permian-Triassic extinction about 250 million years ago.

The most studied mass extinction, between the Cretaceous and Paleogene periods about 65 million years ago, killed off the dinosaurs and made room for mammals to rapidly diversify and evolve.

The causes of these mass extinction events are unsolved mysteries, though volcanic eruptions and the impacts of large asteroids or comets are prime suspects in many of the cases. Both would eject tons of debris into the atmosphere, darkening the skies for at least months on end.

Starved of sunlight, plants and plant-eating creatures would quickly die. Space rocks and volcanoes could also unleash toxic and heat-trapping gases that—once the dust settled—enable runaway global warming.

New evidence suggests we might be heading into an abrupt climate change on Earth - one powerful enough to cause mass extinctions.

More great documentaries

21 Comments / User Reviews

Leave a Reply to Stan Eicher Cancel reply

  1. ned4775

    How could dinos evolve into birds if they we,re wiped out ?

    1. spawn

      Don't imagine it as a sequential process, branch of dinos lead to origin of birds quite early than meteor crash. Earliest birds were seen before 100million years while the dinos got extinct before 65 m years. They coexisted.

  2. ned4775

    Did anyone notice the impact was shown impacting baca california although it was said the impact was the NW yucatan Penn.

  3. mahonhouse


  4. Stan Eicher

    concept of Armageddon = fear of extinction


  5. southab403

    Hi Icculus,

    No doubt we humans are contributing to and accelerating a natural phenomenon which has happened thousands of times (namely global warming), but I find it a big stretch to compare the almost total destruction of the earth that happened due to a massive meteor strike or the vicious upwelling of the earth's core to our slow steady burning of fossil fuels.

    To me, we are part and parcel of the planet and contribute to it's evolution. Humans are making huge mistakes in our lack of oversight and greedy consummation of resources, but 'we' aren't going to kill off 90 to 99% of life on earth by the slow steady burning of fossil fuels.

    Life will evolve, with or without us.

  6. dufas_duck

    Erase 95 percent of humanity....must warm the cockles of Ted Turner and Bill Gates...

    Their stated answer to AGW is to eliminate most of the human population and the remainder live as humans did in the 17th century but before we go, give them your money....

    1. Epicurus

      no that is not their answer. they never said anything about "eliminating most of the human population".

  7. Jack1952

    This is a fascinating topic but you don't have to keep me interested by trying to scare the "h" out of me. I find films about ancient history and science compelling on their own merit and not how it might affect my life. Learning does not have to be coupled with entertainment...dubious entertainment in this case.

  8. Nicola-Jane Wiseman

    "Could we survive a wipeout?" The dictionary definition of wipeout is 'complete destruction' so my best guess is, nope.

  9. Teddy Mcd

    If you suffer from cosmo-phobia -you might not want to watch this one. Nevertheless a great doc - easy to understand.

  10. Christian Klinckwort Guerrero

    Cientific based, no doubt. Good. But one thing, (comparing withh BBC) I do not like the fatalistic Hollywood (Disney) language

  11. southab403

    I really liked that this film looked into past extinction events, and learned of some of the newer research that can explain what and why they happened. I didn't appreciate why they had to put the "fear factor" into the film. OH MY GOD, this could happen to us and wipe us out! (Poor humans, us).

    Also, although not heavily played, the suggestion that we (humans) are somehow tipping the balance of glactic, planetary, and cyclic weather events by existing in our state of life on this planet in a way as to a be responsible for such a catastrophic event as suggested in the film, is a bit ridiculous.

    Otherwise, quite enjoyable.

    1. wald0

      It's really not so "ridiculous" when one can prove CO2 to be a green house gas beyond any reasonable doubt in a high school labratory. The phenomenon of green house warming and the fact that it is occurring here on Earth has been scientific fact for over thirty years- consensus was reached in the seventies, do the research. Once it was understood that the absorbtion band for water vapor was found not to overlaop that of CO2 it was obvious warming would occur due to higher levels of CO2 caused by industrial and agricultural activity.Not even the denial machine that is American industry tries to deny that warming is now occurring, it is painfully obvious that it is- a record amount of high temps were set just this year in North America alone. They simply try to deny it is man made, which is "ridiculous" once you spend a few hours in a lab examinng the undeniable properties of CO2 and then look at how much our activity has increased CO2 levels.
      That said its no wonder after the massive propagamda efforts of those who stand to lose billions if CO2 is regulated that we have a public that thinks there is truly a legitimate scientific debate over global warming and its causes. Frank Luntz, a propaganda specialist that works mostly for the Republican right, admits now that he helped egineer the campaign against global warming and that the main stradegy they employed was to sell the idea that there was no scientific consensus. He also admits that many of those who worked on the tobbacco campaign that tried to dicredit the link between smoking and cancer were also involved in this attempt to manipulate public opinion on global warming. They used the same stradegy, sell the idea that there is no consensus and the science is not sound- even though it clearly is.

  12. John Krisfalusci

    And guess what? When we Humans, become extinct sometime in the future, there will be NEW life-forms to take our spot and move on from there. And maybe one day , looooong after we are forgotten, a new species will wonder what happened to us? It's a cycle really, just takes Millions and Millions of years in this case; for most of us cannot comprehend that simple idea! Just to let you know because at this point Religion has NO use! Trust me..^_^

    1. Fiala

      I'd rather trust God than you.

    2. Vanitas

      I'd rather trust my imaginary friend too than a stranger on the internet. :D