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Learning Objectives

At the end of this lab, students should know...

What causes extinction?

A species goes extinct when it can no longer survive and reproduce in its environment and cannot move to a new one.

What is a mass extinction? What causes them?

Mass extinctions are large worldwide decreases in biodiversity, when rates of extinction exceed rates of speciation. Mass extinctions are generally caused by geological or astronomical events, such as volcanic eruptions, changes in atmospheric composition, sea level rise or fall, global cooling and warming, and asteroid impacts.

What is the Permian-Triassic extinction?

The Permian-Triassic extinction is the largest known mass extinction event, also known as “The Great Dying” or the “Permian-Triassic Disaster”. It took place approximately 252 million years ago at the end of the Permian period, driving over 90% of all species to extinction.

What is the Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-Pg) extinction?

Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-Pg) or Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) Extinction occurred approximately 66 million years ago and is most famous for driving the dinosaurs to extinction, while wiping out 75% of all other species. Nevertheless, some species, including mammals and amphibians, benefited from the opening of previously occupied niches.

What caused the K-Pg extinction?

Many scientists agree that a massive asteroid impact on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico was the most important cause of the event, which led to geologic instability in certain areas, triggering earthquakes, volcanic activity, sea level rise, and massive fires.

List of Materials

  • Supplement reading document print out
  • Computer with internet connection and access to spreadsheet program
    Dependent on the lab size

Lab Prep

  1. Diversity and Extinction during the Paleogene Epoch
    • First, familiarize yourself with the extinction reading supplement for the background on what took place and where existing theories stand.
    • Also, print out an appropriate number of copies to have one per student.
    • Now make sure each lab computer has access to Microsoft Excel or an equivalent open source spreadsheet program. NOTE: The demonstrated procedure was performed with Excel but adjustments can be made to use other programs or operating systems.


JoVE Lab Lab: 20 Prep

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