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  Technology’s role in predicting next mass extinction

 

Narrator:             This is Science Today. Modern technology is helping scientists to predict the next mass extinction with greater accuracy than ever before. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are using new data tools to compare modern extinction patterns with those in the fossil record in order to determine when the next big extinction will take place.

Barnosky:            Fifteen years ago there weren't huge databases that were easily accessible where you could track the occurrence of fossil species through both space and time. Now there are.

Narrator:            Paleobiologist Anthony Barnosky used these new tools to predict that the Earth's sixth mass extinction could occur in as little as 300 years. His research shows that the current rate of extinction is significantly higher than those of the "Big Five" mass extinctions that occurred in the past 540 million years.

Barnosky:            Now we're beginning to identify the holes that would really help us in understanding this past/present comparison and I think we can target our efforts in ways that we hadn't thought about before.

Narrator:             For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.