The Biodiversity Crisis

Free Response

Describe the evidence for the cause of the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) mass extinction.


The hypothesized cause of the K–Pg extinction event is an asteroid impact. The first piece of evidence of the impact is a spike in iridium (an element that is rare on Earth, but common in meteors) in the geological layers that mark the K–Pg transition. The second piece of evidence is an impact crater off the Yucatán Peninsula that is the right size and age to have caused the extinction event.

Describe the two methods used to calculate contemporary extinction rates.


Extinction rates are calculated based on the recorded extinction of species in the past 500 years. Adjustments are made for unobserved extinctions and undiscovered species. The second method is a calculation based on the amount of habitat destruction and species-area curves.