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Top 10 Mass Extinctions

Kate Mulcahy . . . Comments

Life is a struggle for survival. Animals live under constant stress to obtain enough food to eat by being as well adapted to their environments as they can. Animals who are poorly adapted will, in times of hardship, starve, fail to reproduce, and eventually die out completely. Throughout Earth’s history, life has constantly been taking new forms which are immediately tested for survival. When the climate or environment changes drastically, many animals who are poorly adapted for their new situation become extinct. Mass extinctions are when a substantial proportion of Earth’s life has vanished completely, leaving no further fossils or descendants. These events have been occurring since nearly the first appearance of life itself. All the animals alive today are merely the descendants of creatures who have been lucky enough to have met the adaption requirements each time their world changed. Here we look at ten of the biggest extinction events in Earth’s history.


End-Ediacaran Extinction


During the Ediacaran period, complex life had begun to take form for the first time on Earth. Tiny bacteria had evolved into the more complex and specialized Eukaryotes, some of which grouped together to increase their chances of finding food and avoiding becoming food. Most of these odd creatures did not leave a record because they had no skeletons; they were soft and tended to rot when they died rather than fossilize. Only in peculiar circumstances could fossils form, such as a creature lying on soft mud which suddenly hardened and left an imprint. These few fossils tell us of seas full of strange and alien creatures who resembled modern worms, sponges, and jellies. However, these creatures were dependent upon oxygen, as are we. The oxygen levels began to fall and world-wide extinctions occurred 542 million years ago. Over 50% of all species died. The huge numbers of dead creatures decomposed and make up some of today’s fossil fuels. The exact cause of the lowering oxygen levels is unknown, however, this mass extinction made room for the Cambrian explosion, a sudden diversifying of complex creatures beyond mere worms.


Cambrian-Ordovician Extinction

L6 Ordovician Life More B

During the Cambrian period, life flourished. The Edicaran life had remained largely unchanged for millions of years, but in the Cambrian it suddenly diversified and evolved into endless new forms. Exotic crustaceans and trilobites became the dominant life in their huge numbers and variety. Shellfish and giant aquatic arthropods, similar to insects, filled the seas. These creatures had rigid exoskeletons which left a bounty of fossils for us to study. Life flourished until, rather suddenly in geological terms, over 40% of all species suddenly became extinct 488 million years ago. Those that remained survived poorly at best due to some harsh change in the environment. What this change was we do not know. One theory is that a glaciation occurred, the coldest part of an ice age. We have been enjoying an interglacial period, the warmest part of an ice age, for the past eleven thousand years. An extreme change in temperature can easily cause the extinction of a huge amount of life. This extinction event marked the border between the Cambrian and Ordovician periods.


Ordovician-Silurian Extinction


Life began to flourish once again during the Ordovician period. Nautiloids (primitive octopuses), trilobites, corals, starfish, eels, and jawed fish filled the seas. Plants were struggling to take hold on land. Life was gradually becoming more complex. 443 million years ago, over 60% of life died out in what is considered the second largest extinction on record. It was caused by a rapid ice age brought on by lowering levels of carbon dioxide. Much of the water that was home to the abundance of life became used up in icecaps and glaciers which in turn caused oxygen levels to lower as well. It is thought that a burst of gamma rays from space had destroyed the ozone layer and the Sun’s unfiltered ultra-violet radiation then destroyed much of the plant life, which caused the initial drop in carbon dioxide. Although some life survived and continued on, by number of species it would take over 300 million years to recover from this event.


The Lau Event

Large 33 3

Following the Ordovician extinction, the Silurian period began. Life recovered from the last mass extinction and this period was marked by the development of true sharks and bony fish, most of which appeared perfectly modern. Moss and small plants finally began to grow freely on land along coastlines, and some arthropods evolved into spiders and millipedes who were adapted to the dry air and lived alongside the land plants. Enormous sea scorpions became abundant, and trilobites continued to dominate. 420 million years ago, there was a sudden climate change which caused the extinction of perhaps 30% of all species. The atmospheric gases changed in proportions that many creatures found disagreeable or toxic. The cause of this change is not known. Life struggled on until the Silurian period ended and the Denovian period began, when evolution produced a different model of life that thrived.


Late Devonian Extinction

Screen Shot 2012-03-09 At 16.23.08

The Devonian period was where certain fish evolved sturdy fins that let them crawl onto dry land, eventually becoming animals such as reptiles and amphibians. In the seas, vast coral reefs were filled with fish and sharks, some of whom ate trilobites. The trilobites lost their footing as a dominant sea creature for the first time since they appeared over 100 million years prior. In fact, the sharks of this time were so successful that they have not needed to change much and some modern sharks look almost exactly the same as their predecessors. Land plants evolved seeds and diversified. More complex land plants developed and soil appeared for the first time in history. Strange forests of 8m tall fungi sprouted, which sadly are no longer with us. 374 million years ago, 75% of all this amazing life died out. This was due to a change in atmospheric gases, possibly due to massive volcanic activity or a meteorite impact.


Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse

Carboniferous Fore 1773975B

After the Devonian period came the carboniferous period. A few land animals developed terrestrial eggs, which allowed them to live almost anywhere on land rather than being confined to shores where they could lay their eggs, as turtles still do today. Winged insects appeared and prospered. Sharks enjoyed a golden age and the few trilobites who had survived the last extinction became increasingly rare. Gigantic trees appeared and vast rain forests covered much of the land, increasing the air oxygen content to 35%. For comparison, today 21% of the air is oxygen. Conifers from the Carboniferous period remain almost unchanged today. 305 million years ago, a short sudden ice age caused carbon dioxide levels to become the lowest in the known history of Earth. The great forests died and with them, many of the land animals. Nearly 10% of all the species on Earth disappeared at this time. The trees rotted, condensed, and are now our main source of carbon fuels, after which this period was named.


Permian-Triassic Extinction


After the rain forests fell, the most successful animals left on land were those who laid eggs. These quickly dominated before other species had a chance to recover and they diversified, producing a huge variety of reptiles and dominant synapsids, which were mammal-like reptiles and the ancestors of mammals. 252 million years ago, a disaster occurred which the Earth had never seen before and has never seen since. It was caused by a meteorite impact or volcanic activity which changed the air composition radically. Between 90% and 99% of all life became extinct. This is the biggest mass extinction in history, and is known as the ‘Great Dying’.
For reference, let us look at the extinction of animals caused by humans. During our tenure, high estimates suggest that we have wiped out nearly 1000 species of animal. There are about 8 million species alive today, meaning that even according to the most pessimistic estimates, we have obliterated 0.01% of all animal life. Although this is nothing to be proud of, it is infinitesimal when compared to the gargantuan extinctions nature herself casually puts forward.


Triassic-Jurassic Extinction

Triassic Fleeing-Nothosaurs

After the desolation caused by the end of the Permian period, reptiles again became dominant and the dinosaurs appeared. Dinosaurs were not dominant above other reptiles, and at this stage were not much larger than horses. It was their descendants who became the famous and fearful creatures we know so well. All the larger dinosaurs, tyrannosaurus, stegosaurus, triceratops, and the giant long-necked sauropods, came in the Jurassic or the Cretaceous periods. 205 million years ago, 65% of Triassic life died out, including all the large land animals. Many of the dinosaurs were spared due to their small size. Most mass extinctions last a million years or so, but this one took only ten thousand years. It was likely caused by massive volcano eruptions which disgorged huge amounts of carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide, resulting in sudden climate change.


End Jurassic Extinction

Rb Jurassic

During the Jurassic period, gigantic sea reptiles such as the famous plesiosaur dominated the oceans. Pterosaurs ruled the skies and dinosaurs ruled the land. Stegosaurus, the long diplodocus, and the great hunter allosaurus became common. Conifers, cycads, ginkgoes, and ferns provided lush forests. Smaller dinosaurs evolved feathers and birds began to appear. 200 million years ago, 20% of life suddenly vanishes from the fossil records, mostly marine species. Shellfish and corals had been widespread, yet they almost completely vanished. The few who survived managed to repopulate the seas gradually over the coming millions of years. This extinction did not greatly affect land animals, and only a few species of dinosaurs were lost. The cause of this almost marine-exclusive extinction is a matter of debate, but one possibility is that the ocean tectonic plates sank slightly and made the oceans deeper. Most marine life was adapted for shallow water, and it perished as it crept further and further away from the surface.


Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction

List 3 149 20101217 032939 463

This is the most famous extinction event. After the Jurassic ended, dinosaurs continued to proliferate and evolve throughout the subsequent Cretaceous period. They specialized into the forms which are familiar to many children today. More importantly, it was only during the Cretaceous period that life finally recovered from the much earlier Ordovician-Silurian extinction. The number of species at last matched and then exceeded the number from the Ordovician period, over 300 million years prior, for the first time. The synapsids finally evolved into small, rodent-like creatures, which were the first true mammals. 65 million years ago, a huge meteorite impacted the earth at Chicxulub in modern Mexico, disrupting the atmosphere and causing severe global warming, in turn killing 75% of all species. This meteorite contained a high concentration of iridium, normally rare on Earth, and all around the world rocks which are 65 million years old show a thin layer of iridium left over from the impact. A few small reptiles and mammals were among the survivors of this extinction. Mammals would go on to replace dinosaurs as the dominant terrestrial animal.

  • FallenAngel

    Oooh I love these lists!

    • abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

      same her it was a good one

      • Flippant

        It is outrageous that one with such an alphabetical screenname would skimp on vowels in comment. :D

        • dizit

          Maybe he didn’t have enough money to purchase an e

          • chikius

            get life guys it’s just a typo…

          • Flippant

            LoL! Uh-oh! *whispers* Don’t look now, Dizz, but it appears that we’ve got a dummy aproaching us from below at the six o’clock position. :lol:

            What’s more, if we’re gonna have a whip around of the hat to get a collection going for Alpabetical’s letter e, then we may as well ask folks to dig a li’l deeper so we can also purchase an extra letter a for said dummy. :D

            get life guys it’s just a typo…

            Ummmz.. Get life, Chikius? Lol are you still holding onto an 80’s pink fluoro “CHOOSE LIFE” t-shirt? Yeah, I kinda miss Wham too, and wish leg-warmers would come back again.. but I’m not prone to mangling the term and go around telling people to “Get Life.” *looks pointedly @ you* :D

            Anyways, what’s obviously gone soaring high above your head.. *whooshka*.. is that Dizz and I were only kidding. There was zero seriousness to our posts, no spite, malice, or mean-spiritness.. it was just a bit of good-natured teasing. :P

            Which is what I do – you leave an opening, I spot that opening, don’t be surprised if I pounce. All in good fun. And that doesn’t mean I/we have no life.. it just means I love to stir people.. it’s in my blood. :D

            So, perhaps you should practice what you preach, and get a life, before taking off-the-cuff flippant remarks so seriously.. Capt-save-a-ho. ;)

          • Flippant

            approaching*, Alphabetical’s*, mean-spiritedness*, rather. Do’h! Holy fkn white man! Of all the posts for me to morph into a complete sh*t speller, it had to be this one! *cringing facepalm* :lol:

          • Omar

            I knew this was a gag because Elvis is alive and well and enioyjng a jelly donut and the good company of a Branson, MO Cracker Barrel waitress as I type, so right away, I knew something was off.

  • woywoy

    I had no idea about nearly all of these!

    Great list!

  • fjord

    Epic list! Man i had no idea how cruel mother nature was!

  • Avi

    Note to self: try and die before the next entry on this list involves most Mammal species.

    • Good call; it appears inevitable. So in the words of Mel Brooks “Let’s sing and dance and drink alot and hope we don’t get sick”.

      • Flippant

        “Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says ‘Oh sh*t.. she’s awake!'” – Anon

        • Love it – a standard by which to live!

  • Steven Douglas

    I think this might have better read “Top Ten Most Famous” or recognizable or something. You even said it in your #1 (“most famous”). And that’s only because it ended the age of the dinosaurs, which gets so much coverage.

    Ask any geologist, geophysicist, paleontologist, etc., what was the “TOP” mass extinction event on Earth, without qualifying the question, and there won’t be any hesitation, because it’s not even close, and there really is no comparison.

    In terms of staggering, epic proportions – your #4 was the only mass extinction event catastrophic enough to wipe out even entire species of insects. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, compares with The Great Dying, or Permian Triassic extinction of 251 mya.

    • owl

      …but that was on the list…

      • Steven Douglas

        If you read all of what I wrote, I said it was (identified it as #4 in third paragraph). My point was not that it was not on the list, because clearly it was – only that it deserved (by ALL metrics save popularity with the Jurassic Park crowds) to be Number 1. Hands down.

        • segues

          Here we look at ten of the biggest extinction events in Earth’s history

          No where in the opening paragraph does it say that these 10 events are in order of importance. Clearly they are not. They are, as the statement from the opening says, simply 10 of the biggest.

          • segues

            No where should be nowhere :( Sorry

            yeah, yeah Grammer, I know, I done it again ;)

          • Steven Douglas

            Did you even read what you quoted?! “ten of the biggest extinction events”.

            The “BIGGEST”, and by a long, long, longshot, was #4 on the list.

            Nowhere – not in the opening paragraph of the article, nor in my comments, is the word “importance” used – I didn’t use it, nor did the article. That was your little contribution. I used the words “staggering, epic proportions” – which is, you know, a more dramatic way of saying ‘biggest’.

          • segues

            Stevie, you appear to be arguing that the items on the list should be in order of size. Number 4 being the only mass extinction event catastrophic enough to wipe out even entire species of insects.
            That doesn’t mean it ought to #1 if the list is chronological, which it is.
            Get it now?

          • Steven Douglas

            Yes, Captain Condescending, I got it then even. It’s not that big of a deal. The title says “Top Ten”, and article specifically mentions that they were selected as the ten “biggest” extinction events. But the order is chronological, so it is countdown by the order of size, making “#1” simply “the latest”, not the biggest – which makes the concept of #1 kind of meaningless.

            Get it?

          • Steven Douglas

            Correction: “so it is NOT a countdown by the order of size”

          • Tigger

            Fella, you’ve finally figured out your mistake, so why are ypu so angry still? The idea of chronology isnt THAT infuriating, is it?

            If I can add my two cents, thanks segues for patiently explaining to someone so hostile. And anyway, it says “ten of the biggest” rather than “the ten biggest”, which is a vague quantifier anyway. its got the five big ones in paleontological terms, so that makes it pretty good in my book. I thought it was well explained and a good topic. Very clear to follow and it gives a fantastic overview of the development of complex life through every period right up to the cretacious. Very nice.

          • gem

            I was thinking that. “ten of the biggest” doesn’t mean it has to be the ten biggest ones. It cou be like 11 to 20 or something but still count.

          • segues

            Thank you Tigger.

          • GrammerNazi

            Segues:No where should be nowhere :( Sorry

            yeah, yeah Grammer, I know, I done it again ;)

            LOLOLOL it’s GRAMMAR, Not GRAMMER.

          • segues


            LOLOLOL it’s GRAMMAR, Not GRAMMER.

            hahahaha! I was addressing my comment to you, silly, not saying my grammar was wrong. Thanks for looking out for me, though ;) ha ha ha

        • RandyK

          Well it is awesomely interesting, no matter where it is.

    • warrick

      they aren’t ranked by level of devistation. They’re chronological. Number 4 is perfectly fine where it is. Try reading the list next time instead of just the titles.

      • Steven Douglas

        Well. I’ll just have to do that next time, won’t I?

        • OddJobb

          Not just reading, comprehension as well. Work on that.

          • Geko

            I think Steven’s problem might come from the list’s title, “Top 10 mass extinctions”, as per usual Listverse format. I personaly don’t have any beef with it, but it might mislead some…

        • GrammerNazi
          • Pauly

            GrammerNazi, I just spit out my coffee from laughing really hard from that picture! Awesome posting.

        • Flippant

          Lol Steven, you obviously didn’t have sufficient comprehension between reading the list and realising the order in which the entries came. You may want to look into slowing down your reading style and taking deep breaths before getting irate over lists. No need to thank me for the advice. I am Captain Hindsight. :D

        • GrammerNazi

          Steven here is 1 ticket. Please disappear. I understand the butthurt is to great for on man to handle. So please, take this ticket and run, run deep into the interwebs, and hide for a few weeks. Change your name, change your features, just do what you have to do. I could see the buttownage was great today. It is normal to feel buttsore after buttownage like this. Run Steven, run, allow your butt to reheal itself.

          • Flippant

            LoL! Geez, Grammer :D if you coming back for one last pot-shot wasn’t enough (when Steve hasn’t said another word, which amounts to nothing more than you beating a dead horse), you’ve poked your head right in between Maggy and my posts.. and I was having such fun wriggling around on top of him here. :lol:

            For that, you get this…


            Now, I see that you’ve made a few spelling errors in your post there.. I’m gonna let those slide. Just DON’T post here any more!! :D

            Lol *clings tightly to Maggy’s post, straddling it for dear life* :lol:

    • Maggot

      Thank you for your contribution to today’s comment section, Mr. Douglas. Was it as good for you as it was for everyone else? Lmao.

  • allosaur

    Top list. Very nicely written.

  • Queen

    Great list, fascinating subject and well written. Was number 6 not Devonian rather than Denovian though? Sorry to be pedantic.

  • segues

    Ok, this is my favorite list of the year so far! This kind of information never gets boring for me. Thanks Kate!
    Stephen Jay Gould may be responsible for turning more people onto the biological and physical sciences in recent history, and he certainly has been the reason so many are familiar with the extinction events listed here.
    I live in a village named Cambria (as in the Cambrian Explosion and the above mentioned Cambrian-Ordovician Extinction) which has miles of sandstone bluffs. In the rocks you can find fossils of prehistoric marine life. Lying about my workroom right now is a pencil anemone fossil and some little unidentified fish and shrimp-like fossils in sandstone.

  • GrammerNazi

    Dinosaurs didn’t exist. Evolutionist made them up. The earth is only 6,000 years old, so how could a dinosaur be millions of years old lolol. It’s amazing how many people actually believe in them after watching Jurassic Park. That movie is fiction, written by Steven Spielberg and Jeff Goldblum. It’s like watching the Matrix and suddenly believing in Neo lolol. People are so gullible, they will believe anything they see on television or what ever Steven Spielberg says. Steven Spielberg didn’t write history, he writes movies, but many people seem to think what they see on the screen is really happening. It’s just actors, and real dinosaurs were not used in Jurassic Park, and if they were they probably would have snacked on Jeff Goldblum.

    • dizit

      Thanks for that insightful analyzation of the prehistory of the world and the (non)reality of Steven Spielberg movies
      Nurse Ratchet, do you have NGs meds ready?

    • troll.


      • Geko

        Naaa, I’d say it’s more of a very convincing Poe…

    • Maggot

      You’re not even trying anymore, are you?

      • jésus

        I’ve seen less obvious trolling on youtube. YOUTUBE!!! Sort yourself out GN

  • dude

    I love this kind of list! Number 4 was amazing.

  • Edward

    I vaguely remember learning about this at school one time… It was boring as hell. They should have just made us read this.

    Nice work again, Kate.

  • undaunted warrior 1

    Nice list, well presented and written
    Thanks Kate and the pics are great as well.

  • peter8172

    Well, once again, I can smell a war between Believers of the Theory of Evolution and Bible-toting, Born again Christians, Creationists and Fundamentalists who are 100% against Evolution. I just want to mention about a blog on this website to “segues” about the late Stephen Jay Gould (who was an amazing individual who died suddenly at the age of 60) who was a paleontologist at Harvard University. I would rather watch him and his comments on Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary then I would about all of this crap that people think as to how we evolved. I estimate that finding out the true source as to us humans and how we became who we are now is about as futile as The JFK conspiracy. Bottom Line, both will probably never be solved. If I were a high school teacher or a college professor, I would require that students should be required to read the book “The Naked Ape” by Desmond Morris. In fact, everyone should read it. That book is my own personal “Bible”. So see ya later as far as this list is concerned, I wouldn’t touch it with a 1000 foot pole !! And Speaking of Stephen Jay Gould (he was an author as well), get a copy of his book called “The Panda’s Thumb”. It will or may change your mind as to how we evolved. Also reading the book “Future Shock” by Alvin Toffler is another read.

    • trev

      Mate, if you want to know how a lot of these things aren’t guessed but known with a fair degree of certainty, ill reccomend a book you might like: a short history of the world, by bill bryson. Very easy to understand and he’s a pretty entertaining writer. Things like the age of the earth and how we know when various animals developed are explained so that a high school student can understand.

      The naked ape, btw, is one of my favorites too. Hope you enjoy this one as well!

      • Metalwrath

        Bill Bryson’s book is called “A short history of nearly everything” (not “..the world”).
        And, yeah, it’s a fun read, and so is Jared Diamond’s “THE RISE AND FALL OF the Third Chimpanzee”..

        • segues

          The Third Chimpanzee The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal Jared Diamond 1992

      • rajimus123

        a short history of the world, was probably the most mindblowing book i’ve read haha

    • segues

      Stephen Jay Gould (who was an amazing individual who died suddenly at the age of 60) who was a paleontologist at Harvard University.

      Gould was, indeed, amazing. I’ve read most of his books. If you haven’t read The Flamingo’s Smile, do. He was actually a geologist, not a paleontologist, however.
      Morris’ Naked Ape is a very good book, but I actually prefer Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee. If you haven’t read it, do.

  • Blight


  • Iraqi Christian

    Follow Jesus he is god The only war to heaven is only through, don’t let these clueless lists in your mind THE ONLY WAR IS THROUGH HIM

    • OddJobb

      “THE ONLY WAR IS THROUGH HIM”?? So, am I supposed to attack and fight Jesus?
      Plus, wasn’t he non-violent? Why is that it’s his douchebag followers always want a war.
      Screw it, I think I’ll just learn more about Buddhism instead.

      • qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm

        Buddhisms not a religion….

    • p1t1o

      Got to be trolling…

    • diablo135

      Does Frater know you stole his avatar

  • Iraqi Christian

    Follow Jesus and the bible the only way to the father is through him

    • Geko

      Go stuff yourself, godbot!

    • MandieMurder

      Jesus road a T-Red dude.

      • MandieMurder

        Or “rode”…holy crap.

        • MandieMurder

          And “T-Rex. Time for bed.

          • Pauly

            T-Rex? AWESOME glam band! Bang A Gong, baby!!!

    • Satanist

      Hail Satan :D

      • segues

        I was once exploring a cave. On one wall someone had painted Hail Satin
        hahaha! :D

        • Geko

          There was that similar joke in a Lano & Woodley episode, “One Simple Task”.

          • segues

            What I related really happened in the early 1980s. It’s weird to think there was a joke of that sort…although I do remember commenting that the bit of graffiti had been left by a group of underground interior decorators.

    • rajimus123

      what doesn’t make sense is how you can believe that “the Father” created everything by “Himself” yet you can’t believe in two dudes getting married. did he just spunk out the stars?

  • Ling Chow

    Another mass extinction was the mass extinction of my virginity when Joe Hincks violated me against my will.

  • One of few lists where I actually bother to read each entry.

  • AussieNik

    Okay lol this list is r-tarded what about the extinction of people in Tasmania hmmm? an entire race of people wiped out by comets and blizzards and shit! And what about New Zeelanders killing any person that was not white? why does no one mention that hmmm? lol you guys need to wake up and smell the beans lol! Aussie Aussie Aussie oi oi oi!!!

    • Geko
      • AussieNik

        LOL!!!! Mate that;s what we eat as a snack in OZ!!!!! unlike kiwis and saffers our economy is BOOOMING!!!! Aussie Ausiee Aussie oi o oi!

      • Australians…. the Brits had to discover another continent on the other side of the world to put them in. They make Canadians look normal. Oh, and NO ONE puts shrimp “on the barbie”, you IDIOTS!

        • Flippant

          Lmao! Calm down, Lynnette! :D

          • That’s quite flippant of you, Sir/and/or/Madam! Ha-rumph!

          • Flippant

            Lol *grins* :D

    • p1t1o

      Can’t tell if trolling or just doesn’t know what “extinction” means…

      I’m sick these last few days, might explain my cynicism today…

      • rajimus123

        he’s australian, i’d go with doesn’t know what exticntion means

        • Flippant

          LoL! *cries* :cry:

    • jlknhkjn

      Dinosaurs are a lot more interesting than Tasmanian people. And neither of those things can fall under the term “mass extinction” so why are you even commenting on this article?

  • snickersman

    Another great list by Kate. Keep up the good work! Comes to show how evolution allows us to survive despite terrifying changes to our environments.

  • Lauren

    Brilliant list for an ancient-history geek like me :) well done!

  • oouchan

    Some of these I knew, but not all. Didn’t there were so many. I guess I got the glossed over version of these.

    Interesting list.

  • Mira Bel

    Yum! Brain food!! Great list :)

  • qw0rtz

    It’s called Devonian. Not Denovian.

    “A few land animals developed terrestrial eggs, which allowed them to live almost anywhere on land rather than being confined to shores where they could lay their eggs, as turtles still do today.”

    This bit is misleading. Turtles belong to the animals that lay terrestrial eggs. They lay them on the shore because they live in the sea, so it’s basically the other way round. Amphibians on the other hand need to go to a body of water to lay their eggs.

    • mom424

      You get the prize – I saw much arguing earlier in the comments about size/order/relevance and no one noticed that the entire entry was spelled incorrectly. Kudos!

      • segues

        Mom, the “argument” was about size/order/relevance, not about spelling.

  • douchebag

    To American

    • Jésus

      Too evolutionist

  • The troll

    No mention of the present day man-made mass extinction? A bonus mentioning perhaps?

    • zac

      It was mentioned. Re-read all of #4.

  • What about the on-going Holocene Extinction?

    You neglected to include the most important one – it’s happening right now!

  • DMCal

    DeVonian, not DeNovian.

    picking nits and all that.


    congrats!! great list!

  • evolutionhoax

    Sorry, but any list is bogus that says anything about the earth being older that 6,000+ years old. Anything else is pure speculation, not fact!

    • p1t1o

      Yeah, yeah, yeah.
      Troll, troll, troll.
      Yada yada yada.

      Heard it all before.


  • brent

    heres a video posted on ebaumsworld today that is strangely similiar to this list topic! :

  • vanowensbody

    Another great list and a science lesson too boot.

    Thank goodness the humans who walked with the dinosaurs made it or we wouldn’t be here. ;)

  • Name

    Wasn’t it the Devonian and not the Denovian? Also, it is arguable, but we are currently undergoing a massive mass-extinction event. I read recently in an article that up to HALF of the current species could be extinct in the next 100 years if things keep going at the rate they are.

  • mom424

    Very good list Kate. I knew about many of these; unfortunately I believe we might well be on the way to one approaching the PT death event. I’ve read a convincing hypothesis that blames a catastrophic release of methane due to a spate of quick warming (caused by either a comet/asteroid or a mega-volcano and the attendant global warming). The methane insulated the earth and threw it into a deep freeze. Not a piddly ice age, but a kill everything ice cube. The current rate of methane bubbling up from the not so frozen arctic is huge. Bigger than anything before recorded and covering a giant area. Be afraid. Do not listen to the climate change naysayers. They’re wrong.

  • TheSixthPistol

    And I thought the world was created in just a few days. lol.

    • TheSixthPistol

      Great list by the way. :)

  • Maggot

    Running out of superlatives for Kate’s lists. Another great one. I don’t believe I have ever seen her participate in the comments though. Too bad…hope she is at least aware of most everyone’s appreciation of her efforts.

    • segues

      I have ever seen her participate in the comments

      I’ve noticed that, too. I’ve begun to wonder if Kate Mulcahy actually exists. Isn’t it possible that Kate Mulcahy is a number of list writers whose lists are being published under a pseudonym for reasons we don’t know?

      • Pauly

        Alan Smithee?

        • segues

          Well, Alan Smithee was a name used by movie directors who found the finished product so appalling they didn’t want their name on the film, so used Smithee as a fall guy.
          I was thinking of those instances where more than several writers contribute either one chapter to a book of several chapters or, similarly, each write a book in a series but all volumes and each individual book is attributed to one author.

      • Geko
        • segues

          hahaha! That reminds me of a scene from the book Rosemary’s Baby wherein Rosemary is trying to unscramble an anagram of a name.

    • Flippant

      Lol Maggy, did you notice that Kate Mulcahy showed up on Listverse about exactly the same time that I myself did? :D

      *saunters off in a cloudy air of mystery*

      *imagines Kate’s ‘WTF, don’t even’ face*


  • Corinna

    Random question. I view the lists on my iPhone. Is there a way to view lists by author? I love Kate and Bryan and want to read more from them easily…?

    • Flippant

      Sorry, Corinna.. nope, the mobile site doesn’t support the Search function. But, if you scroll to the bottom of the page, click “Off” Mobile Site, then in the top right hand corner there’s a search engine. Type in “Kate Mulcahy” or whoever and then all their lists will come up no worries.

  • Y2

    what about the Smith Extinction… you know, when the Smith’s broke up?

    • skywatcher

      I believevthat happened in thr Ono-Devonian Period… Which is fun to say…

  • Techstyles

    Too Gondwanalandian ( ” ,) and you forgot November 2012 – I’ve seen it happen…

    • Techstyles

      Seriously ? Gondwanaland is a swear ? How are you for Pangea fool ?

      • Flippant

        I can’t see your censored post, but I see the problem. It’s getting censored ‘coz it contains the bum word. *rolls eyes*

        Gondwan.aland :)

  • An even better list would be the Top Ten Internet Websites that were going to change the world but bit the dust.

  • Ubergeek

    One of the best comment sections i’ve ever read, especially the steven douglas flaming bit, and the grammar bit. Steve, u just turned yerself into a numbnuts in front of the entire “interweb” lol. List was awesome, well written, lookin forward to more knowledge from u kate! Or is that just a pseuodonym for jamie frater?

  • Jared

    Kony 2012

    • Mse322

      Watch it on you tube

    • Techstyles

      I don’t even like hip hop :o(

  • darkknight9761

    This is one of the most interesting and fascinating lists I think I have ever read from I’m sorry to say Creationists, but you’re wrong. This list is based on scientific FACT, not theories as some would like to believe. Very, very good list. Thank you very much.

  • ANL

    Wow, this article took alot of research. great job!!

  • ringtailroxy

    A list after my own heart! Excellent topic, good research,w ell-presented… a trifecta!

  • WafflesWafers

    I searched for mass extinctions (out of boredom) yesterday, and today, I read this list. Well-researched, and it was good read.

  • Young Earth

    People, understand that the universe and all that includes is only a little over 6,000 years old. I understand this isn’t the idea of the post. But don’t be fooled by the idea that the earth is millions of years old. That is a joke. Man and dinosaur lived together. The flood wiped out many animals and that is a more reasonable and understandable answer than what the poster has claimed here.

    • zac


      Why can’t hard core Christians understand that science is doing a much better job proving God might just actually exist and understanding how “He” might possibly work than any book written by ancient men who had no real knowledge of the Universe outside their immediate experience possible could?

      I’m not saying the Book is useless, when it comes to wisdom and understanding of the human condition? Sure. For the most part.

      Understanding of the Universe? Not so much.

      • zac

        Yes. I know my punctuation can be bad. Feel free to help.

      • Jésus

        Well if you’re not going to say it I will. That book is useless (apart from being used as a coaster)


    • p1t1o

      I watched “Angels and Demons” last night. Just as terrible as the book. I won’t even start…

      But there was one good line in it (I’m not 100% sure of the exact wording, but it was something like this):

      “Religeon is flawed, because men are flawed, all of them, including this one .”

      Seems to make sense to me.

      Now get some self-awareness, try to take the above into acount and open your mind.

      Unless of course, you think you and your religeon are perfect?

      And no, I’m not sure how you spell religeon…

  • chikius

    Epic list. Learned so many new things :)

    • Flippant

      Lol pssh.. you didn’t learn how to gauge the Comment section properly though, did you? Huh, Chikius? :P

  • Lifeschool

    excellent list – superb! well done. :)

  • asdfghjkl

    My favorite entry was #4 because it epically disproves every humans are causing mass extinctions theory, 1000 extinct species vs 8 MILLION that exist is extremely insignificant.

    • qwertyuiop

      Well 1000 isn’t exactly anything we should be happy about. It’s just ridiculously less than all the natural ones.

    • The insanity

      We’ve done that in a couple of thousand years, most of these extinctions go on for thousands of years at least. We’ll just see how far we get

  • Pelu

    One of the best lists ever!
    Had fun reading the authors take on each extinction events, great read.
    All I can say is thank you.

  • Freikorptrasher

    What a joke list. #1 is too overated. The greatest extinction in antiquity is definately #4 end of Permian period extinction just before the dinosaur arrive.It’s like the Roman Empire of all mass extinction.

    • HAHA!


      Oh man, I’m sorry, but seriously, go and read Steven Douglas’ similar comment. Oh you poor little thing with no comprehension skills. I hope you don’t kick yourself too hard when you realize what you’ve just done.

  • robertdoe

    There have been five documented mass extinctions since the Cambrian. This does not include the present one. A mass extinction is the death of many species in a geologically short period of time.

  • brian

    How could something kill all the dinosaurs and nothing else? It must have been dinosaur AIDS!

    • joijoij


  • Sweet! Good one.

  • Rick Haines

    Beainstorm of a theory…. Extinctions last 10 000- 100 000 yrs and are caused by events that dramatically alter air or sea composition., our period is 11 000 yrs old . We may possibly be creating our own extinction with the burning of fossil fuels changing the composition/ oxygen % in the air . Just a thought …….

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