The time mammals spend on land has been cut in half, scientists predict

He was about to 250 million years Since reptile-like animals evolved into mammals. A team of scientists now predicts that mammals may only have another 250 million years left.

Researchers have built a virtual simulation of our future world, similar to models that predicted human-caused global warming over the next century. Using data on the movement of continents across the planet, as well as fluctuations in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, the new study predicted more could happen in the future.

Alexander Farnsworth, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Bristol who led the team, said the planet could become so hot that no mammals – including us – could survive on Earth. The researchers found that the climate will turn deadly thanks to three factors: increased sunshine, changing geography of the continents, and increased carbon dioxide.

“It’s a triple whammy that’s unsurvivable,” Dr. Farnsworth said. He and his colleagues published their book Stady Monday in Nature Geoscience.

Scientists have been trying for decades to predict the fate of life on Earth. Astronomers expect our Sun to grow steadily brighter, and could engulf Earth in about 7.6 billion years.

But life probably won’t make it that long. As the Sun spews more energy at the planet, Earth’s atmosphere will heat up, causing more water to evaporate from the oceans and continents. Water vapor is a powerful greenhouse gas, so it will trap more heat. It could get hot enough in a couple of billion years to boil the oceans.

In 2020, Dr. Farnsworth turned his attention to the future of Earth as a way to distract himself from the pandemic. He came across A Stady Predicting how the continents will move around the planet in the distant future.

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Throughout Earth’s history, its land masses have collided to form supercontinents, which then split into parts. The last supercontinent, Pangea, existed 330 million to 170 million years ago. The study predicted that a new supercontinent – called Pangea Ultima – will form along the equator 250 million years from now.

In his initial research, Dr. Farnsworth built models of the ancient Earth to reconstruct past climates. But he thought it would be interesting to use his models to see what life would be like on Pangea Ultima. The climate he ended up in surprised him.

“This world was so much fun,” he said.

Dr. Farnsworth enlisted the help of Christopher Scotties, the retired University of Texas geophysicist who modeled Pangea Ultima, and other experts to run more detailed simulations of that distant future, tracking the atmosphere moving over and around the oceans and supercontinent. Mountains.

“They did a lot, which I really liked,” said Hannah Davis, an Earth systems scientist at the German Geosciences Research Center GFZ, who was not involved in the research.

Under a range of likely geological and weather conditions, the researchers found that Pangea Ultima would be hotter than today’s continents. One of the reasons for the drastic change is the sun. Every 110 million years, the energy released by the Sun increases by 1%.

But the supercontinent will make matters worse. For one thing, the land warms faster than the ocean. As the continents collapse into one giant landmass, there will be a large interior area where temperatures can rise.

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Pangea Ultima will also influence the climate thanks to its topography, which will include vast areas of flat land far from the ocean. On Earth today, rainwater and carbon dioxide react with minerals on the sides of mountains and hills, which are then carried out to sea to fall to the seafloor. The result is that carbon dioxide is steadily being pulled from the atmosphere. But when Earth becomes home to Pangea Ultima, the conveyor belt will slow down.

The model found that if Pangea Ultima behaved like previous supercontinents, it would become studded with volcanoes spewing carbon dioxide. Thanks to the turbulent movements of molten rock deep within the Earth, volcanoes may release massive amounts of carbon dioxide for thousands of years — greenhouse gas explosions that will send temperatures skyrocketing.

Currently, humans are heating the planet by emitting it More than 40 billion tons of carbon of fossil fuels every year. If global warming continues unabated, biologists fear it will lead to the extinction of a number of species, while people will be unable to survive in the heat and humidity of large swaths of the planet.

Dr. Farnsworth and his colleagues concluded that things in Pangea Ultima will likely get worse for mammals like us. The researchers found that almost all species of Pangea ultima can easily become so hot that no mammal can survive. They may disappear in the event of a mass extinction.

Dr. Farnsworth acknowledged that a few mammals might eke out a living in refugia on the fringes of Pangea Ultima. “Some areas in the northern and southern ends could be viable,” he said.

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However, he was confident that mammals would lose the dominance they had enjoyed for the past 65 million years. They may be replaced by cold-blooded reptiles that can withstand the heat.

Wolfgang Kiesling, a climate scientist at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, who was not involved in the study, said the model did not take into account a factor that could mean a lot for mammal survival: the gradual decline in mammal populations. Heat escapes from the Earth’s interior. This decrease may lead to fewer volcanic eruptions and less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“Mammals may live somewhat longer than has been represented,” he said, perhaps 200 million years, give or take.

The research could one day help us discover life on other planets, said Eric Wolf, a planetary climate scientist at the University of Colorado, who was not involved in the new study. When scientists begin using powerful space telescopes to observe planets in other solar systems, they may be able to measure their continental arrangements to infer what kinds of life might live there.

“We are trying to prepare ourselves for the many worlds we will see,” Dr. Wolf said.

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