Thursday, October 12, 2006

 

Earth's 'Wobbles' Spurring Cycles of Evolution and Extinction?

From the National Geographic: Small changes in Earth's orbit and tilt may have regulated the cyclical rise and fall of many prehistoric mammal species, new research suggests.

Earth's orbital patterns are believed to drive long-term climate change.

Over millions of years these climatic shifts may have regularly spawned events that give rise to new mammal species.

They may have also caused the periodic extinctions that doomed other mammal lineages to oblivion, says a team of researchers led by paleontologist Jan van Dam of Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

"The question of climate's role in causing both evolution and extinction has been a big area of contention," said Tony Barnosky (homepage), a paleobiologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Barnosky is not affiliated with van Dam's new research, which will appear in tomorrow's edition of the journal Nature. [Science, Biology, Paleontology, Palaeontology, Dinosaurs]

Continued at "Earth's "Wobbles" Spurring Cycles of Evolution and Extinction?"
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Based on "Long-period astronomical forcing of mammal turnover" (Abstract)

Also see "Your time is up" (Nature Editor's Summary)

Update: See the Washington Post's "When Earth Tilts, Animals Fall Off" (2nd item on page).

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