GEOGRAPHY

In the supercontinent 250 million years later, will mammals still survive?


Of the 4.6 billion years of life on Earth, humans have only traveled 7 million years ago, and will humans and other mammals still exist when the next supercontinent is formed 250 million years from now?

British scientists in a model study published in Nature Earth Science believe that the earth’s climate environment may exceed the physiological limits of humans and other mammals.

Humans and other mammals have strategies to avoid overheated climates. But if the temperature exceeds 40°C for a long time, it will cause many mammalian species to die, and humidity will exacerbate heat stress. Scientific studies have shown that the human-caused climate change that is happening today is likely to cause some regions to reach this physiological limit, but even in extreme warming scenarios, most parts of the planet are still habitable for mammals.

Scientists believe that the next supercontinent (some scientists call it the “ultimate Pangea”) is expected to form in 250 million years, when all the current land masses will merge into a single supercontinent. However, the impact of this process on mammalian species is unclear.

Alex Farnsworth and colleagues at the University of Bristol predicted using a climate model simulating temperature and humidity patterns that the entire future supercontinent would exceed the mammalian heat stress limit. They believe that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will double as high as it is now due to volcanic emissions, resulting in higher temperatures.

“The location of the supercontinent, mainly in the tropics, will exacerbate the heat, and the sun will release 2.5% more radiation in the future than it does today. This leaves only 8 percent of the continent habitable for mammals, and the risk of extinction increases as populations shrink and separate. Farnsworth said.

However, the researchers say that other potential tectonics of future supercontinents may also change existing predictions. They also emphasize that other evolutionary or human-related processes may have caused mammalian extinctions to occur before the formation of supercontinents.

Earth’s current geographic data and geographic data 250 million years from now when all continents converged into a single supercontinent. Image courtesy of Alex Farnsworth

If all continents come together to form the next supercontinent, Earth’s average monthly rainfall over the next 250 million years. Image courtesy of Alex Farnsworth

If all continents come together to form the next supercontinent, Earth’s monthly mean surface temperature for the next 250 million years. Image courtesy of Alex Farnsworth

(Source: Feng Weiwei, China Science News)

Related paper information:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-023-01259-3



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