Friday, February 28, 2014

Is Planet Earth Under New Management?

A hundred million years from now, when we're all dead and gone, a team of geologists will be digging in a field somewhere ...

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... and they will discover, buried in the rocks below, a thin layer of sediment — very thin, about the width of a cigarette paper, . That skinny strip, when they look close, will send what's called a "biostratigraphic signal" that something enormous happened back in our era, something life-changing, planet-reorganizing, even Earth-shaping. The evidence, when they look closely, will be visible in that same skinny layer all over the world. In her , The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert describes what they'll find.

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For starters, Kolbert says, below this layer, geologists will see fossil remnants of all kinds of large animals: elephants, buffalo, rhinos, lions, tigers, whales, giant turtles (and deeper down, even earlier — saber-toothed tigers, mammoths and giant sloths). Their big bones will litter those older rocks. But above this layer — after our era — they disappear. Something killed off Earth's megafauna.For starters, Kolbert says, below this layer, geologists will see fossil remnants of all kinds of large animals: elephants, buffalo, rhinos, lions, tigers, whales, giant turtles (and deeper down, even earlier — saber-toothed tigers, mammoths and giant sloths). Their big bones will litter those older rocks. But above this layer — after our era — they disappear. Something killed off Earth's megafauna.

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During this same time, they will discover that animals and plants that used to be in one place — gingko trees in China, tulips in Asia, starlings in Europe — suddenly moved all over the world. Grasses found on one continent now strangely appear on four continents. Flowering plants, rats, goats, pigeons, kudzu, ants, inexplicably spread their territories across enormous oceans, climates, time zones. Specific life forms — chickens, cattle, roses, wheat, rice — turn up everywhere. Something moved them, though they may not 
 know who or how. ... 

For the rest of the story: http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2014/02/26/282516133/is-planet-earth-under-new-management

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