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Is Climate Change Driving Another Mass Extinction?

Darwin Day at Duquesne Explores Evolution and the Future of the Planet

Every fifth-grader knows dinosaurs roamed the Earth once but don't live here anymore. If we adults think we're smarter than fifth-graders, are we aware of extinctions occurring before our very eyes?

Extinction, evolution and rapid climate change will be the topics of Duquesne University's annual free Darwin Day discussion on Friday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m.

Renowned paleontologist Dr. Peter D. Ward, professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, will address the causes of major mass extinctions-periods of time when more than half of all species on Earth disappeared-and the evolutionary effects they had in shaping our world.

Ward, a favorite on PBS, NOVA, TED and Animal Planet, will discusses Mass Extinctions: The Third Tier of Evolution, and will weigh whether we are experiencing a new mass extinction driven by human-induced climate change.

"There have been five major mass extinctions, all attached to rapid climate change, requiring rapid changes in organisms," said Dr. David Lampe, associate professor of biology and Darwin Day organizer. "Organisms that didn't adapt went extinct."

Already, about one-third of all amphibian species are endangered and nearly 170 species are believed to have gone extinct over the last two decades, even in protected habitats. Many plants are also in danger.

"Everything," Lampe said, "is based on a predictable climate."

To learn more about extinctions, past and present, attend the free, public event in the University's Power Center Ballroom, Forbes Avenue and Chatham Square, Uptown.

For more information on Darwin Day, visit www.duq.edu/darwin.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.