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When Planet Earth Nearly Killed All Life
Topic: Biosphere
A new paper reveals how the worst extinction in Earth's history may have been tied to the formation of Supercontinent Pangea. The catastrophe wasn't triggered by an impact from above--unlike another well-known extinction--but by a geological process below, deep within Earth's core.

Did a Huge Impact Lead to the Cambrian Explosion?
Topic: Biosphere
A new paper suggests a large impact in the ocean 570 million years ago caused a re-organization of Earth’s environment, setting the stage for the emergence of complex life.

Life's Ancient Island in the Ice
Topic: Biosphere
During the last ice age, massive glaciers covered much of our planet. However, a region of Alaska, Siberia and the Canadian Yukon remained ice-free. This region, known as Beringia, supported unique organisms and was an important haven for evolution. Now, scientists may have uncovered how Beringia supported such diversity at a time when conditions for life were harsh.

Life Out of the Tropics
Topic: Biosphere
The diversity of life on Earth is concentrated near the equator, with a steep falloff towards the poles. A recent study finds this is because new species tend to form in the tropics and then migrate out. This historical pattern might point to a fundamental property of life.

Our Earliest Animal Ancestors
Topic: Biosphere
How has life changed Earth? How has Earth changed life? And why did animal life appear on Earth some time around 600 million years ago – and not at another time? A new NASA Astrobiology Institute group will tackle big questions about the origin of advanced life.

A Volcanic Dinosaur Debate
Topic: Biosphere
Scientists can recite a long list of the devastating environmental consequences of a large meteorite impact, but they cannot prove these effects have led to the simultaneous loss of life around the globe.

SkyNet Autonomy
Topic: Biosphere
Detecting changes in the biosphere from orbiting satellites can involve tedious sifting through stacks of digital images. Letting a satellite screen the incoming pictures may hold promise for detecting autonomously how the Earth is changing.

Biosphere Under the Glass
Topic: Biosphere
In Oracle, Arizona, the Biosphere 2 project became the world's largest closed ecosystem. Project managers have now opened its interior to visitors. Among the diverse land, water and air environments enclosed under glass, most of the planet's major biomes are represented to view.

Evolution's Slow Recovery
Topic: Biosphere
The biosphere bounces back from mass extinctions with the origin of new species.

Biological Diversity: Fact or Artifact?
Topic: Biosphere
It's one of the biggest questions of biology. How did biodiversity change after the 'Cambrian explosion' 540 million years ago?
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