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Mass Extinctions: Lessons from the Past

von Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Dieses Kursmaterial steht nur in der iTunes U-App auf iPhone oder iPad zur Verfügung.


Since the industrial revolution species have been disappearing from our planet at alarming rates. If this trend continues, scientists warn that we may be headed for a mass extinction--the sixth one that we know of in Earth’s history. What is the evidence behind this claim?

This course explores past mass extinction events to understand the patterns of species loss occurring today. It incorporates videos, interactive modules, reading materials from the eBook "Mass Extinctions: Lessons from the Past," the EarthViewer app, and various assignments. The content aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and is appropriate for grades 9 through 12.


Extinctions are a normal part of the 3.8-billion-year-long history of life on this planet. As species die off, new ones emerge. But the fossil record reveals that five times in the past 540 million years, more than half of all species went extinct within a geologically short period time. After each of these mass extinction events, life rebounded and biodiversity eventually recovered, but the world looked much different than it had before.


In this course you will learn about these past mass extinctions, what caused them, and how the world changed as a result. As you complete the assignments, you will gain an appreciation of the deep, long history of life on our planet and how both biotic and abiotic processes have shaped it. You will then apply that knowledge to understanding current trends in biodiversity loss, their causes, and whether they are consistent with a mass extinction event. 


As a follow-up to this course, visit the “Gorongosa: Using Citizen Science to Study Ecology ” course on iTunes. You will learn about an effort to restore wildlife in a park in Mozambique, Africa. For additional resources on earth and environmental science, evolution, and ecology, visit




Exegese Gruess

Mass Extinctions: Lessons from the Past
In iTunes ansehen


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