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Science News: Pangea Ultima – The end of mammalian life?

– K.J., Editor

In grade school, most students learned about Pangea, the last supercontinent to exist on Earth. Pangea means “all the earth” in the Greek language, and is regarded as the origin of the modern continents and the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Pangea, however, will be upstaged in 250 million years by Pangea Ultima; the next supercontinent that scientists predict will exist on the Earth. The seven continents (North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Antarctica and Australia) will no longer exist, but will coalesce to form one giant land mass. This process, however, will not happen without affecting life on earth.

Climatologist Dr. Alexander Farnsworth and colleagues published a report in Nature Geoscience in which a supercomputer was used to operate a climate model. The results predicted that as Pangea Ultima forms and decays, higher carbon dioxide concentration, solar radiation, and land temperature variation away from the ocean will make the earth too hot to be habitable for mammals. This means that a mass extinction of mammals such as cats, dogs, and even humans, is possible, since mammalian bodies struggle to regulate body temperature when the environmental temperature rises above 35-40 °C.

Two hundred fifty million years is a long time from now, and predictions about what life will be like then are just that, predictions. For life today, our focus should be on combatting the effects of climate change, so that climate models can eventually make more positive predictions about our future.

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