Mar 14, 2016
United Arab Emirates
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Non-cellular life[note 1][note 2]
The smallest contiguous unit of life is called an organism. Organisms are composed of one or more cells, undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, can grow, respond to stimuli, reproduce (either sexually or asexually) and, through evolution, adapt to their environment in successive generations. A diverse array of living organisms can be found in the biosphere of Earth, and the properties common to these organisms—plants, animals, fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria—are a carbon- and water-based cellular form with complex organization and heritable genetic information.
Abiogenesis is the natural process of life arising from non-living matter, such as simple organic compounds. The age of the Earth is about 4.54 billion years. The earliest life on Earth arose at least 3.5 billion years ago, during the Eoarchean Era when sufficient crust had solidified following the molten Hadean Eon. The earliest physical evidence of life on Earth is biogenic graphite from 3.7 billion-year-old metasedimentary rocks found in Western Greenland and microbial mat fossils in 3.48 billion-year-old sandstone found in Western Australia. Some theories, such as the Late Heavy Bombardment theory, suggest that life on Earth may have started even earlier, and may have begun as early as 4.25 billion years ago according to one study, and even earlier yet, 4.4 billion years ago, according to another. The mechanism by which life began on Earth is unknown, although many hypotheses have been formulated. Since emerging, life has evolved into a variety of forms, which have been classified into a hierarchy of taxa. Life can survive and thrive in a wide range of conditions. Nonetheless, more than 99 percent of all species, amounting to over five billion species, that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct. Estimates on the number of Earth’s current species range from 10 million to 14 million, of which about 1.2 million have been documented and over 86 percent have not yet been described.
The chemistry leading to life may have begun shortly after the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago, during a habitable epoch when the Universe was only 10–17 million years old. Though life is confirmed only on the Earth, many think that extraterrestrial life is not only plausible, but probable or inevitable. Other planets and moons in the Solar System and other planetary systems are being examined for evidence of having once supported simple life, and projects such as SETI are trying to detect radio transmissions from possible alien civilizations.
The meaning of life—its significance, origin, purpose, and ultimate fate—is a central concept and question in philosophy and religion. Both philosophy and religion have offered interpretations as to how life relates to existence and consciousness, and on related issues such as life stance, purpose, conception of a god or gods, a soul or an afterlife. Different cultures throughout history have had widely varying approaches to these issues.
Plant growth in the Hoh Rainforest
Herds of zebra and impala gathering on the Maasai Mara plain
An aerial photo of microbial mats around the Grand Prismatic Spring of Yellowstone National Park
Democritus (460 BC) thought that the essential characteristic of life is having a soul (psyche). Like other ancient writers, he was attempting to explain what makes something a living thing. His explanation was that fiery atoms make a soul in exactly the same way atoms and void account for any other thing. He elaborates on fire because of the apparent connection between life and heat, and because fire moves.
Plato’s world of eternal and unchanging Forms, imperfectly represented in matter by a divine Artisan, contrasts sharply with the various mechanistic Weltanschauungen, of which atomism was, by the fourth century at least, the most prominent… This debate persisted throughout the ancient world. Atomistic mechanism got a shot in the arm from Epicurus… while the Stoics adopted a divine teleology… The choice seems simple: either show how a structured, regular world could arise out of undirected processes, or inject intelligence into the system.
— R. J. Hankinson, Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought
This account is consistent with teleological explanations of life, which account for phenomena in terms of purpose or goal-directedness. Thus, the whiteness of the polar bear’s coat is explained by its purpose of camouflage. The direction of causality (from the future to the past) is in contradiction with the scientific evidence for natural selection, which explains the consequence in terms of a prior cause. Biological features are explained not by looking at future optimal results, but by looking at the past evolutionary history of a species, which led to the natural selection of the features in question.
During the 1850s, Helmholtz, anticipated by Mayer, demonstrated that no energy is lost in muscle movement, suggesting that there were no “vital forces” necessary to move a muscle. These results led to the abandonment of scientific interest in vitalistic theories, although the belief lingered on in pseudoscientific theories such as homeopathy, which interprets diseases and sickness as caused by disturbances in a hypothetical vital force or life force.
Homeostasis: Regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state; for example, sweating to reduce temperature.
Others take a systemic viewpoint that does not necessarily depend on molecular chemistry. One systemic definition of life is that living things are self-organizing and autopoietic (self-producing). Variations of this definition include Stuart Kauffman’s definition as an autonomous agent or a multi-agent system capable of reproducing itself or themselves, and of completing at least one thermodynamic work cycle.
Electron micrograph of adenovirus with a cartoon to demonstrate its icosahedral structure
Living systems theories
The first attempt at a general living systems theory for explaining the nature of life was in 1978, by American biologist James Grier Miller. Such a general theory, arising out of the ecological and biological sciences, attempts to map general principles for how all living systems work. Instead of examining phenomena by attempting to break things down into component parts, a general living systems theory explores phenomena in terms of dynamic patterns of the relationships of organisms with their environment. Robert Rosen (1991) built on this by defining a system component as “a unit of organization; a part with a function, i.e., a definite relation between part and whole.” From this and other starting concepts, he developed a “relational theory of systems” that attempts to explain the special properties of life. Specifically, he identified the “nonfractionability of components in an organism” as the fundamental difference between living systems and “biological machines.”
A systems view of life treats environmental fluxes and biological fluxes together as a “reciprocity of influence”, and a reciprocal relation with environment is arguably as important for understanding life as it is for understanding ecosystems. As Harold J. Morowitz (1992) explains it, life is a property of an ecological system rather than a single organism or species. He argues that an ecosystemic definition of life is preferable to a strictly biochemical or physical one. Robert Ulanowicz (2009) highlights mutualism as the key to understand the systemic, order-generating behavior of life and ecosystems.
Complex systems biology (CSB) is a field of science that studies the emergence of complexity in functional organisms from the viewpoint of dynamic systems theory. The latter is often called also systems biology and aims to understand the most fundamental aspects of life. A closely related approach to CSB and systems biology, called relational biology, is concerned mainly with understanding life processes in terms of the most important relations, and categories of such relations among the essential functional components of organisms; for multicellular organisms, this has been defined as “categorical biology”, or a model representation of organisms as a category theory of biological relations, and also an algebraic topology of the functional organization of living organisms in terms of their dynamic, complex networks of metabolic, genetic, epigenetic processes and signaling pathways.
It has also been argued that the evolution of order in living systems and certain physical systems obey a common fundamental principle termed the Darwinian dynamic. The Darwinian dynamic was formulated by first considering how macroscopic order is generated in a simple non-biological system far from thermodynamic equilibrium, and then extending consideration to short, replicating RNA molecules. The underlying order generating process for both types of system was concluded to be basically similar.
Another systemic definition, called the Operator theory, proposes that ‘life is a general term for the presence of the typical closures found in organisms; the typical closures are a membrane and an autocatalytic set in the cell’, and also proposes that an organism is ‘any system with an organisation that complies with an operator type that is at least as complex as the cell. Life can also be modeled as a network of inferior negative feedbacks of regulatory mechanisms subordinated to a superior positive feedback formed by the potential of expansion and reproduction.
There is no current scientific consensus as to how life originated. However, most accepted scientific models build on the following observations:
The Miller–Urey experiment, and the work of Sidney Fox, show that conditions on the primitive Earth favored chemical reactions that synthesize amino acids and other organic compounds from inorganic precursors.
However, since genes and proteins are both required to produce the other, the problem of considering which came first is like that of the chicken or the egg. Most scientists have adopted the hypothesis that because of this, it is unlikely that genes and proteins arose independently.
Therefore, a possibility, first suggested by Francis Crick, is that the first life was based on RNA, which has the DNA-like properties of information storage and the catalytic properties of some proteins. This is called the RNA world hypothesis, and it is supported by the observation that many of the most critical components of cells (those that evolve the slowest) are composed mostly or entirely of RNA. Also, many critical cofactors (ATP, Acetyl-CoA, NADH, etc.) are either nucleotides or substances clearly related to them. The catalytic properties of RNA had not yet been demonstrated when the hypothesis was first proposed, but they were confirmed by Thomas Cech in 1986.
One issue with the RNA world hypothesis is that synthesis of RNA from simple inorganic precursors is more difficult than for other organic molecules. One reason for this is that RNA precursors are very stable and react with each other very slowly under ambient conditions, and it has also been proposed that living organisms consisted of other molecules before RNA. However, the successful synthesis of certain RNA molecules under the conditions that existed prior to life on Earth has been achieved by adding alternative precursors in a specified order with the precursor phosphate present throughout the reaction. This study makes the RNA world hypothesis more plausible.
Geological findings in 2013 showed that reactive phosphorus species (like phosphite) were in abundance in the ocean before 3.5 Ga, and that Schreibersite easily reacts with aqueous glycerol to generate phosphite and glycerol 3-phosphate. It is hypothesized that Schreibersite-containing meteorites from the Late Heavy Bombardment could have provided early reduced phosphorus, which could react with prebiotic organic molecules to form phosphorylated biomolecules, like RNA.
In 2009, experiments demonstrated Darwinian evolution of a two-component system of RNA enzymes (ribozymes) in vitro. The work was performed in the laboratory of Gerald Joyce, who stated, “This is the first example, outside of biology, of evolutionary adaptation in a molecular genetic system.”
Prebiotic compounds may have extraterrestrial origin. NASA findings in 2011, based on studies with meteorites found on Earth, suggest DNA and RNA components (adenine, guanine and related organic molecules) may be formed in outer space.
In March 2015, NASA scientists reported that, for the first time, complex DNA and RNA organic compounds of life, including uracil, cytosine and thymine, have been formed in the laboratory under outer space conditions, using starting chemicals, such as pyrimidine, found in meteorites. Pyrimidine, like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the most carbon-rich chemical found in the Universe, may have been formed in red giants or in interstellar dust and gas clouds, according to the scientists.
According to the panspermia hypothesis, microscopic life—distributed by meteoroids, asteroids and other small Solar System bodies—may exist throughout the universe.
Cyanobacteria dramatically changed the composition of life forms on Earth by leading to the near-extinction of oxygen-intolerant organisms.
All life forms require certain core chemical elements needed for biochemical functioning. These include carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur—the elemental macronutrients for all organisms—often represented by the acronym CHNOPS. Together these make up nucleic acids, proteins and lipids, the bulk of living matter. Five of these six elements comprise the chemical components of DNA, the exception being sulfur. The latter is a component of the amino acids cysteine and methionine. The most biologically abundant of these elements is carbon, which has the desirable attribute of forming multiple, stable covalent bonds. This allows carbon-based (organic) molecules to form an immense variety of chemical arrangements. Alternative hypothetical types of biochemistry have been proposed that eliminate one or more of these elements, swap out an element for one not on the list, or change required chiralities or other chemical properties.
Range of tolerance
Deinococcus radiodurans is an extremophile that can resist extremes of cold, dehydration, vacuum, acid, and radiation exposure.
Microbial life forms thrive even in the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot on the Earth. Microbes also thrive inside rocks up to 1900 feet below the sea floor under 8500 feet of ocean.
Investigation of the tenacity and versatility of life on Earth, as well as an understanding of the molecular systems that some organisms utilize to survive such extremes, is important for the search for life beyond Earth. For example, lichen could survive for a month in a simulated Martian environment.
Form and function
There are two primary types of cells. Prokaryotes lack a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles, although they have circular DNA and ribosomes. Bacteria and Archaea are two domains of prokaryotes. The other primary type of cells are the eukaryotes, which have distinct nuclei bound by a nuclear membrane and membrane-bound organelles, including mitochondria, chloroplasts, lysosomes, rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, and vacuoles. In addition, they possess organized chromosomes that store genetic material. All species of large complex organisms are eukaryotes, including animals, plants and fungi, though most species of eukaryote are protist microorganisms. The conventional model is that eukaryotes evolved from prokaryotes, with the main organelles of the eukaryotes forming through endosymbiosis between bacteria and the progenitor eukaryotic cell.
The molecular mechanisms of cell biology are based on proteins. Most of these are synthesized by the ribosomes through an enzyme-catalyzed process called protein biosynthesis. A sequence of amino acids is assembled and joined together based upon gene expression of the cell’s nucleic acid. In eukaryotic cells, these proteins may then be transported and processed through the Golgi apparatus in preparation for dispatch to their destination.
Cells reproduce through a process of cell division in which the parent cell divides into two or more daughter cells. For prokaryotes, cell division occurs through a process of fission in which the DNA is replicated, then the two copies are attached to parts of the cell membrane. In eukaryotes, a more complex process of mitosis is followed. However, the end result is the same; the resulting cell copies are identical to each other and to the original cell (except for mutations), and both are capable of further division following an interphase period.
Multicellular organisms may have first evolved through the formation of colonies of like cells. These cells can form group organisms through cell adhesion. The individual members of a colony are capable of surviving on their own, whereas the members of a true multi-cellular organism have developed specializations, making them dependent on the remainder of the organism for survival. Such organisms are formed clonally or from a single germ cell that is capable of forming the various specialized cells that form the adult organism. This specialization allows multicellular organisms to exploit resources more efficiently than single cells.
Cells have evolved methods to perceive and respond to their microenvironment, thereby enhancing their adaptability. Cell signaling coordinates cellular activities, and hence governs the basic functions of multicellular organisms. Signaling between cells can occur through direct cell contact using juxtacrine signalling, or indirectly through the exchange of agents as in the endocrine system. In more complex organisms, coordination of activities can occur through a dedicated nervous system.
The hierarchy of biological classification’s eight major taxonomic ranks. Life is divided into domains, which are subdivided into further groups. Intermediate minor rankings are not shown.
The exploration of the American continent revealed large numbers of new plants and animals that needed descriptions and classification. In the latter part of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th, careful study of animals commenced and was gradually extended until it formed a sufficient body of knowledge to serve as an anatomical basis for classification. In the late 1740s, Carolus Linnaeus introduced his system of binomial nomenclature for the classification of species. Linnaeus attempted to improve the composition and reduce the length of the previously used many-worded names by abolishing unnecessary rhetoric, introducing new descriptive terms and precisely defining their meaning. By consistently using this system, Linnaeus separated nomenclature from taxonomy.
The fungi were originally treated as plants. For a short period Linnaeus had classified them in the taxon Vermes in Animalia, but later placed them back in Plantae. Copeland classified the Fungi in his Protoctista, thus partially avoiding the problem but acknowledging their special status. The problem was eventually solved by Whittaker, when he gave them their own kingdom in his five-kingdom system. Evolutionary history shows that the fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants.
As new discoveries enabled detailed study of cells and microorganisms, new groups of life were revealed, and the fields of cell biology and microbiology were created. These new organisms were originally described separately in protozoa as animals and protophyta/thallophyta as plants, but were united by Haeckel in the kingdom Protista; later, the prokaryotes were split off in the kingdom Monera, which would eventually be divided into two separate groups, the Bacteria and the Archaea. This led to the six-kingdom system and eventually to the current three-domain system, which is based on evolutionary relationships. However, the classification of eukaryotes, especially of protists, is still controversial.
As microbiology, molecular biology and virology developed, non-cellular reproducing agents were discovered, such as viruses and viroids. Whether these are considered alive has been a matter of debate; viruses lack characteristics of life such as cell membranes, metabolism and the ability to grow or respond to their environments. Viruses can still be classed into “species” based on their biology and genetics, but many aspects of such a classification remain controversial.
In the 1960s a trend called cladistics emerged, arranging taxa based on clades in an evolutionary or phylogenetic tree.
Beyond the solar system, the region around another main sequence star that could support Earth-like life on an Earth-like planet is known as the habitable zone. The inner and outer radii of this zone vary with the luminosity of the star, as does the time interval during which the zone survives. Stars more massive than the Sun have a larger habitable zone, but remain on the main sequence for a shorter time interval. Small red dwarf stars have the opposite problem, with a smaller habitable zone that is subject to higher levels of magnetic activity and the effects of tidal locking from close orbits. Hence, stars in the intermediate mass range such as the Sun may have a greater likelihood for Earth-like life to develop. The location of the star within a galaxy may also have an impact on the likelihood of life forming. Stars in regions with a greater abundance of heavier elements that can form planets, in combination with a low rate of potentially habitat-damaging supernova events, are predicted to have a higher probability of hosting planets with complex life.
Animal corpses, like this African buffalo, are recycled by the ecosystem, providing energy and nutrients for living creatures
One of the challenges in defining death is in distinguishing it from life. Death would seem to refer to either the moment life ends, or when the state that follows life begins. However, determining when death has occurred requires drawing precise conceptual boundaries between life and death. This is problematic, however, because there is little consensus over how to define life. The nature of death has for millennia been a central concern of the world’s religious traditions and of philosophical inquiry. Many religions maintain faith in either a kind of afterlife or reincarnation for the soul, or resurrection of the body at a later date.
Extinction is the process by which a group of taxa or species dies out, reducing biodiversity. The moment of extinction is generally considered the death of the last individual of that species. Because a species’ potential range may be very large, determining this moment is difficult, and is usually done retrospectively after a period of apparent absence. Species become extinct when they are no longer able to survive in changing habitat or against superior competition. In Earth’s history, over 99% of all the species that have ever lived have gone extinct; however, mass extinctions may have accelerated evolution by providing opportunities for new groups of organisms to diversify.
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals, plants, and other organisms from the remote past. The totality of fossils, both discovered and undiscovered, and their placement in fossil-containing rock formations and sedimentary layers (strata) is known as the fossil record. A preserved specimen is called a fossil if it is older than the arbitrary date of 10,000 years ago. Hence, fossils range in age from the youngest at the start of the Holocene Epoch to the oldest from the Archaean Eon, up to 3.4 billion years old.
Synthetic biology is a new area of biotechnology that combines science and biological engineering. The common goal is the design and construction of new biological functions and systems not found in nature. Synthetic biology includes the broad redefinition and expansion of biotechnology, with the ultimate goals of being able to design and build engineered biological systems that process information, manipulate chemicals, fabricate materials and structures, produce energy, provide food, and maintain and enhance human health and the environment.
Cephalaspis (a jaw-less fish)
Eogyrinus (an amphibian) of the Carboniferous
The Early Triassic lived between 250 million to 247 million years ago and was dominated by deserts as Pangaea had not yet broken up, thus the interior was nothing but arid. The Earth had just witnessed a massive die-off in which 95% of all life went extinct. The most common life on earth were Lystrosaurus, Labyrinthodont, and Euparkeria along with many other creatures that managed to survive the Great Dying. Temnospondyli evolved during this time and would be the dominant predator for much of the Triassic.
Plateosaurus (a prosauropod)
The Late Triassic spans from 237 million to 200 million years ago. Following the bloom of the Middle Triassic, the Late Triassic featured frequent heat spells, as well as moderate precipitation (10-20 inches per year). The recent warming led to a boom of reptilian evolution on land as the first true dinosaurs evolve, as well as pterosaurs. All this climactic change, however, resulted in a large die-out known as the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event, in which all archosaurs (excluding ancient crocodiles), synapsids, and almost all large amphibians went extinct, as well as 34% of marine life in the fourth mass extinction event of the world. The cause is debatable.
The Early Jurassic spans from 200 million years to 175 million years ago. The climate was much more humid than the Triassic, and as a result, the world was very tropical. In the oceans, Plesiosaurs, Ichthyosaurs and Ammonites fill waters as the dominant races of the seas. On land, dinosaurs and other reptiles stake their claim as the dominant race of the land, with species such as Dilophosaurus at the top. The first true crocodiles evolved, pushing out the large amphibians to near extinction. All-in-all, reptiles rise to rule the world. Meanwhile, the first true mammals evolve, but never exceed the height of a shrew.
The Middle Jurassic spans from 175 million to 163 million years ago. During this epoch, reptiles flourished as huge herds of sauropods, such as Brachiosaurus and Diplodicus, filled the fern prairies of the Middle Jurassic. Many other predators rose as well, such as Allosaurus. Conifer forests made up a large portion of the forests. In the oceans, Plesiosaurs were quite common, and Ichthyosaurs were flourishing. This epoch was the peak of the reptiles.
(Inaccurately portrayed) Stegosaurus
Tylosaurus (a mosasaur) hunting Xiphactinus
The Late Cretaceous spans from 100 million to 65 million years ago. The Late Cretaceous featured a cooling trend that would continue on in the Cenozoic period. Eventually, tropics were restricted to the equator and areas beyond the tropic lines featured extreme seasonal changes in weather. Dinosaurs still thrived as new species such as Tyrannosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Triceratops and Hadrosaurs dominated the food web. Pterosaurs, however, were going into a decline as birds took to the skies. The last pterosaur to die off was Quetzalcoatlus. Marsupials evolved within the large conifer forests as scavengers. In the oceans, Mosasaurs ruled the seas to fill the role of the Ichthyosaurs, and huge plesiosaurs, such as Elasmosaurus, evolved. Also, the first flowering plants evolved. At the end of the Cretaceous, the Deccan traps and other volcanic eruptions were poisoning the atmosphere. As this was continuing, it is thought that a large meteor smashed into earth, creating the Chicxulub Crater in an event known as the K-T Extinction, the fifth and most recent mass extinction event, in which 75% of life on earth went extinct, including all non-avian dinosaurs. Everything over 10 kilograms went extinct. The age of the dinosaurs was officially over.
The Eocene Epoch ranged from 55 million years to 33 million years ago. In the Early-Eocene, life was small and living in cramped jungles, much like the Paleocene. There was nothing over the weight of 10 kilograms. Among them were early primates, whales and horses along with many other early forms of mammals. At the top of the food chains were huge birds, such as Gastornis. It is the only time in recorded history that birds ruled the world (excluding their ancestors, the dinosaurs). The temperature was 30 degrees Celsius with little temperature gradient from pole to pole. In the Mid-Eocene, the circum-Antarctic current between Australia and Antarctica formed which disrupted ocean currents worldwide and as a result caused a global cooling effect, shrinking the jungles. This allowed mammals to grow to mammoth proportions, such as whales which are, by now, almost fully aquatic. Mammals like Andrewsarchus were now at the top of the food-chain and sharks were replaced by whales such as Basilosaurus as rulers of the seas. The Late-Eocene saw the rebirth of seasons, which caused the expansion of savanna-like areas, along with the evolution of grass.
The Oligocene Epoch spans from 33 million to 23 million years ago. The Oligocene feature the expansion of grass which had led to many new species to evolve, including the first elephants, cats, dogs, marsupials and many other species still prevalent today. Many other species of plants evolved in this period too, such as the evergreen trees. A cooling period was still in effect and seasonal rains were as well. Mammals still continued to grow larger and larger. Paraceratherium, the largest land mammal to ever live evolved during this period, along with many other perissodactyls in an event known as the Grand coupre.
Animals of the Miocene (Chalicotherium, Hyenadon, Entelodont…)
The Miocene spans from 23 to 5 million years ago and is a period in which grass spreads further across, effectively dominating a large portion of the world, diminishing forests in the process. Kelp forests evolved, leading to new species such as sea otters to evolve. During this time, perissodactyls thrived, and evolved into many different varieties. Alongside them were the apes, which evolved into a staggering 30 species. Overall, arid and mountainous land dominated most of the world, as did grazers. The Tethys Sea finally closed with the creation of the Arabian Peninsula and in its wake left the Black, Red, Mediterranean and Caspian Seas. This only increased aridity. Many new plants evolved, and 95% of modern seed plants evolved in the mid-Miocene.
The Pliocene ranges from 5 to 2 million years ago. The Pliocene features dramatic climactic changes, which ultimately leads to modern species and plants. The most dramatic are the formation of Panama, and the accumulation of ice at the poles, leading to a massive die-off, India and Asia collide forming the Himalayas, the Rockies and Appalachian mountain ranges were formed, and the Mediterranean Sea dried up for the next several million years. Along with these major geological events, the Australopithecus evolves in Africa, beginning the human branch. Also, with the isthmus of Panama, animals migrate across North and South America, wreaking havoc on the local ecology. Climactic changes bring along savannas that are still continuing to spread across the world, Indian monsoons, deserts in East Asia, and the beginnings of the Sahara desert. The earth’s continents and seas move into their present shapes, and the world map hasn’t changed much since.
Mega-fauna of the Pleistocene (Mammoths, Cave lions, Woolly Rhino, Megaloceros, American Horses
The Holocene ranges from 12,000 years ago to present day. Also known as “the Age of Man”, the Holocene features the rise of man on his path to sentience. All recorded history and “the history of the world” lies within the boundaries of the Holocene epoch. Human activity, however, is being blamed for a die-out that has been going on since 10,000 B.C.E. commonly referred to as “the Sixth Extinction” with an estimated extinction rate of 140,000 species per year.