Facts for kids: Why do animals become extinct?

Why do animals become extinct

The Western Black Rhinoceros was hunted to extinction for its horns.

Since the dawn of life on Earth, at least 99.9 percent of all species have become extinct. The causes vary but the result is the same. Looking back into history, there have been five major events that have caused mass extinction. These were caused by meteorites, massive volcanic eruptions, a possible comet strike on the planet, and perhaps even a gamma ray burst.

If this sounds outlandish, consider the fact that scientists believe the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago by a meteorite that hit Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

But species generally become extinct as a result of less dramatic events. Researchers have found that species disappeared due to natural climate change, competition from other species, invasive species (such as cats eating native wildlife), and disease.

More worrying, however, are the causes of extinction that have become predominant in the last couple of hundred years. With a growing global population and consequent demand for food, fuel and resources, humans have played an ever increasing role in extinction. Loss of habitat and human predation have been disastrous for some species. Logging, industrialised fishing and farming, cities expanding into the countryside, poaching, pollution, and greedy hunting practices have all contributed to species either being wiped out or pushed to the brink of extinction.

Short answer: While nature has played a role in making species extinct, the greatest threat posed to animals and the environment in the twenty first century is humankind. A rapidly growing global population, combined with an appetite for the earth’s resources, is causing irreversible damage to nature.

Facts for kids: What is a light-year?

What is a light-year?

There’s a good reason we say the Andromeda Galaxy is 2.5 million light years away

A light-year is a measurement of distance, often used in astronomy to express how far light travels across space in a standard Earth year of 365.25 days. Because light travels so fast – 300,000 kilometres (186,000 miles) per second – numbers get too messy when dealing with galaxies and stars beyond the solar system.

One light-year is equal to 9,500,000,000,000 kilometres (about 6 trillion miles). Or, to be more precise, one light-year is 9.460730472580800 trillion kilometres (5.878625 trillion miles).

When considering Proxima Centauri, the nearest star, it’s a lot easier to express the distance as 4.243 light years as opposed to 40,018,889,899,016.78 kilometers. Would you rather say the Andromeda Galaxy is 2.5 million light years away or 23,651,826,181,452,000,000 kilometres away?

Short answer: A light-year is a measurement of the distance light travels through space in a year. It is often used to express distances beyond the solar system.

Facts for kids: Why do I hiccup?

what causes hiccups

Charles Osborne had the hiccups from 1922 to 1990. He looks pretty angry about it.

Blame your epiglottis. The epiglottis is a fleshy barrier that separates the food and air tubes in your throat. The annoying sensation and noise of a hiccup is caused when your epiglottis shuts without warning. But you can’t blame the epiglottis without blaming the diaphragm as well.

The diaphragm is a muscle at the bottom of the chest that controls breathing. On occasion the diaphragm spasms, causing air to be sucked into the lungs and the epiglottis to close quickly. Spasms of a diaphragm can be caused by a variety of things, such as eating food too quickly, spicy foods, smoking, fizzy drinks, stress, and too much alcohol.

Short answer: There are over 100 causes of hiccups but we’re keeping it simple. If you’re like me, you get the hiccups because you eat too quickly. If you want to impress people at parties, tell them hiccups are also known as singultus. It is Latin for the act of catching one’s breath while sobbing.