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Periodic mass extinctions and the Sun's oscillation about the galactic plane


Raup and Sepkoski1 have recently reported evidence fora 26-Myr periodicity in the occurrence of mass extinctions based on a study of marine fossils. The data baseline of 250 Myr suggests events of variable amplitude, with some of the strongest peaks associated with boundaries between major geological periods which have been defined by previous palaeontological studies. In a more limited quantitative study, Fischer and Arthur2 earlier cited evidence for a 32-Myr period of major extinction events. Hatfield and Camp3 were among the first to suggest that mass extinctions might be correlated with periodic galactic phenomena, noting intervals of 80–90 Myr between major mass extinctions with an exceptionally strong mass extinction every 225–275 Myr. Here we point out a possible correlation between the 26-Myr extinction period and the Sun's oscillation about the galactic plane.

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Schwartz, R., James, P. Periodic mass extinctions and the Sun's oscillation about the galactic plane. Nature 308, 712–713 (1984).

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