Three hundred million years ago, our world looked very different than it does today. Instead of seven continents, we had one: Pangaea, a supercontinent surrounded by a global ocean. Due to a process called plate tectonics, continents move over time. In 250 million years, the continents will combine again to form another supercontinent called Pangaea Ultima – and it may be bad news for mammals like us.

In a recent study published in Nature Geoscience, a team of researchers built climate simulations to investigate how the formation of Pangaea Ultima will affect mammals. When supercontinents form, there is increased volcanism that leads to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air, which in turn leads to hotter temperatures. The researchers found that most of Pangaea Ultima will consistently experience temperatures hotter than 40°C (104°F). Depending on uncertainties in their model, 8-25% of Pangaea Ultima will remain habitable to mammals, in comparison to 66% of land today. Nearly half of the supercontinent will be desert. This drastic climate upheaval and decrease in living space is likely to cause a mass extinction event.

While the study paints a bleak picture for the future habitability of Earth, all hope is not lost: life has survived five mass extinction events in the past. This work also provides interesting food for thought to scientists hoping to find habitable planets elsewhere in the universe. Astronomers often discuss the “habitable zone”, the distance from a star where a planet has a suitable temperature for life. These calculations do not account for the distribution of continents, which the researchers argue is a mistake: in their models, they found that Earth still had habitable regions, even in cases where the astrophysical calculation considered it uninhabitable. This finding implies that more planets may be habitable than previously thought.

This study was led by Dr. Alexander Farnsworth, a senior research associate in the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol.

Managing Correspondent: Emily Pass

Press Article: This is what Earth’s continents will look like in 250 million years (News from Nature)

Original Journal Article: Climate extremes likely to drive land mammal extinction during next supercontinent assembly (Nature Geoscience)

Image Credit: Pixabay/ELG21

32 thoughts on “Pangaea 2.0 may drive mammals to extinction

  1. So this all said, industry and advance will save mammals, while global warming will happen no matter what. So killing industry is risking killing all of us, and not going to do anything to stop anything.

  2. I would say by then the human race will evolve and be accustomed to temperatures of that magnitude. Besides doesn’t places like Arizona and Nevada in the US reach temperatures like that.

  3. I just wanted to say reread all of these comments one more time. After reading it brought tears to my eyes. Look at the social division. We couldn’t come together all at once if we tried because everyone is too caught up in their selves to make any changes in this world. Everyone argues their views but never stand up to make a change. Before you begin to complain just do. Make the change in your world around you then. It could be as simple as not littering or recycling or saving energy in everyday living. Re use and renew instead of throwing everything away. Little changes like this will make a huge difference. People need to start being better to each other. I don’t have a clue what most people are like but I live in Las vegas. I venture around this town. When I’m out and I’m able to help I do. And after it’s all said and done does anyone actually really care actually generally care. Wake up people start giving a crap about each other.

    1. I agree, but I don’t think this article is about how people treat one another or how we treat the planet. Tectonic plates shifting is going to happen regardless of what we do or don’t do. You live in Nevada, doesn’t temperature there reach 104°F or higher?

  4. I think it’s good someone’s thinking of this if only 250 million years back they had thought of us , who knows where’d we’d be now. I do believe humans have much to worry over in present times too but being knowledgeable & putting info out here is Amazing. Hopefully we have some brainy people out in this world thinking up stuff for present & future issues, if only guidelines and money weren’t always issues for them when comes to solving these problems.

  5. Whether this is science or just mere predictions/ foretelling of the future I just don’t know but when science is defeated then one comes to understand there is more than just prophecy to what unveils in this world but an invisible force has full charge over the universe and all that’s created within it.
    Forget science because there is an omniscient being that science can’t explain how the origin started…….the universe comes from the unseen realm and will always be controlled by the unseen realm.

    1. I get we have to think about the future and but in 250 million years a lot can happen….but we don’t even know everything about this planet now; only about less then 5% of our oceans are explored yet and we don’t even go back to our moon….so live every days like it could be your last and try to do the right thing other then that the future is Unpredictable Unless we are reincarnated After this life we won’t know anyway what it’ll be like Or at least be here in the same physical body or form

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