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Is there going to be another mass extinction

THIS week the residents of Kagera Region where caught by surprise when a bright whistling object passed through the sky, Tuesday night for about five minutes the object travelled on the sky sending people into fear of the end of time.

Many theories may driven out of the event but through the Almighty God’s merciful hands the life of people in this region and neighboring Lake zone regions of Mara and Mwanza the impact of the asteroid attack was controlled by nature and there is no report of loss of properties or life in that spectacular event of its own kind.

Scientists describe a meteorite as a solid piece of debris from an object, such as a comet, asteroid, or meteoroid, and this object must originates from outer space and survives its passage through the atmosphere to reach the surface of a planet or moon.

This is the last stage in the existence of these type of space rocks because they originate from meteors which turn into meteoroids before broken into smaller parts, you may say these are lumps of rock or metal that orbit the Sun but in other way meteoroids become meteors when they crash into Earth’s atmosphere and the gases surrounding them always light up to form an image which looks like a shooting star. 

Scientist say when the object enters the atmosphere of the Earth, various factors such as friction, pressure, and chemical interactions with the atmospheric gases cause it to heat up and radiate that energy. It then becomes a meteor and forms a fireball, meanwhile most of the time dust-sized particles called micrometeorites make up 99 percent of the approximately 50 tons of space debris that falls on the Earth’s surface every day at the same time some meteorites, however, are as large as boulders.

More than 60,000 meteorites have been found on Earth and scientists have divided these meteorites into three main types: stony, iron, and stony-iron and each of these types are found in many sub-groups.

Due to the light which was produced by the fast moving object, from the shores of Lake Victoria to Kamachumu and Mutukula on Tuesday everybody was afraid of the end of the world when almost all living creatures would be pushed into extinction. In biology, extinction is the termination of an organism or of a group of organisms and normally species.

Fossils records show that from the beginning of the world about 4.5 billion years ago, the planet Earth has witnessed about five mass extinction events. Between 450 and 440 million years ago more than 70 percent of all marine creatures that used to live here were wiped out by changes of sea level and climate changes.

Later about 375 and 360 million years in an event which lasted for about 20 million years about 85 percent of the remaining marine animals in the world were pushed into extinction by deteriorating sea levels and quality of water due to changes in temperature in the ancient world.

As if that was not enough the world was trapped into another extinction event which killed more than about 96 percent of all marine species and an estimated 70 percent of land species including insects and mammal like reptiles which used to dominate this planet. 

To open door for more modern creatures nature continue to shape the world, about 201.3 million years ago this planet passed a condition which killed a big number of terrestrial animals which dwelt on the ancient world. These factors included changes of weather, rise and fall of sea levels and poor quality of water due to volcanic activities which polluted all major water bodies.

As a result of the intensity of the event, about 23 percent of all families, 48 percent of all genera of which 20 percent of marine families and 55 percent of marine genera and between 70 percent and 75 percent of all species were pushed into extinction. Most of these were giant amphibians creatures which dominated the world.

This massive extinction event was very painful on one side but on another hand it opened the whole world to dinosaurs that evolved from about 234 million years ago. While ancestors of crocodiles evolved more than 236 million years ago.

Some paleontologists say dinosaurs evolved on Earth more than 243 million years ago and managed to conquer rainforest and the savannah when a mass extinction killed other creatures about 201 million years ago. Meanwhile scientific researches indicate the southern part of Tanzania attracted dinosaurs from different parts of the world including Asilisaurus which evolved more than 244 million years ago.

Paleontologists say the ancient world floated between a single mega sea whereby Gondwana was a part of Pangaea a super continent which enabled dinosaurs to migrate from one part to a distant located area searching for pasture and rich hunting ground. About 175 million years ago, Pangaea the super continental started to breakup and triggered the beginning of the end of these mega fauna of the ancient world.

In what is known among scientists as continental drift, an ancient sea called Panthalassa which surrounded Pangaea was divided into two parts to form the modern Pacific Ocean. Paleontologists say the process of continental drift takes very long time, this means before a total breakup Pangaea passed through three different stages.

The first stage involved the emerging of Gondwana which started more than 570 million years ago. Second stage is when Gondwana became part of Pangaea for not less than 300 million years before crushing it and became a super continent from about 180 million years ago. The creation of Gondwana started the long process of taking dinosaurs out of the world to allow evolution of other creatures including ancestors of modern mammals.

Scientists say about 175 million years ago volcanic activities on the Earth’s crust crushed Gondwana to form the modern continents. This means that the seven new continents came with different water bodies which blocked migration of dinosaurs from one part to another in a new and small environment.

The continental drift which happened about 175 million years ago forced some to stay in one place, others were hunted to extinction but most dinosaurs lost grazing and nestling ground. Scientists say volcanic eruptions and asteroid attacks killed all dinosaurs on the Earth’s surface about 66 million years ago and opened doors for humans and other mammals to rule the world.

On the other hand what happened in Kagera this week was not a strange event and it won’t be the last meteorite to strike the Earth. Fossils records dated about 100 million years ago indicates that the Earth came under Asteroids attacks from the Solar system which influenced geological and metrological changes on the ground and sky.

At that time the world was cooler and dry but due to these attacks the climate became warm and humid worldwide with subtropical vegetation growing in the northern hemisphere. The Earth’s poles became cool and temperate, scientists say it was during this time when many species of plants, birds and animals were forcefully pushed into extinction while some changed their morphology and adapted new behaviors so that they could cope in a new environment.

At the time of the havoc because of different morphological weaknesses, almost all member of an Afrotheria family called Orycteropodidae were killed just like many prehistoric species. The catastrophe left behind an Aardvark as their sole representative in the list of mammals which dwell in the savannah of Africa today.

Based on fossils records history shows the first Aardvark appeared in a supercontinent which was called Gondwanaland on an area which is modern day Madagascar. Scientists say the grandparents of this unique mammal appeared in a geological period called Paleocene which happened about 66 to 56 million years ago.

To survive through a fast changing environment, the ancestors of the modern aardvark had to go through habitual and morphological changes, to cope with these changes, the body of ancestors of modern day aardvark had to go through convergent evolution process which enabled the mammal to adapt rabbit like long ears capable to peak sound of an approaching enemy quickly.

Dinosaurs failed to transform and adapt to new and flexible morphology which could help them survive while ancestors of aardvark were able to change and continue to live in a world which was changing very fast. What is going to happen when the world is going to pass through another situation which may risk human’s life and civilizations that is causing pollution.

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Author: REGINALD STANISLAUS MATILYA

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