• A scientist explained how bushfires can drive mass extinctions
  • The asteroid impact 66 million years ago caused wildfires across the planet
  • Australia might experience mass extinctions due to the bushfires

Due to the ongoing bushfires in Australia, an evolutionary biologist warned that massive wildfires could trigger mass extinctions across different species. Since this has already happened before, there’s a chance that it could happen again.

Australia is known as a megadiverse country, which means it houses a great number of species in its territories. Unfortunately, this has been drastically affected by the ongoing bushfires in the country. According to recent reports, over a billion animals have already been killed by the natural disaster.

For Mike Lee, an evolutionary professor at Flinders University in Adelaide, the effect of the bushfires in Australia can be compared to the mass extinction events that Earth experienced billions of years ago.

As noted by Lee, the massive asteroid that hit the planet 66 million years ago caused firestorms, which led to wildfires in different parts of the globe. According to fossil records, most species of land-dwelling animals were wiped out by the wildfires. Since these animals couldn’t swim, burrow or fly, they were not able to escape the fires that incinerated their natural habitats.

“Among mammals, platypus-like monotremes (aquatic and burrowing) clung on, as did tiny rodent-like placental mammals (able to burrow, or hide in deep crevices), but all large placental mammals died,” Lee wrote in an article for The Conversation. “And while at least some birds survived, all their large, earth-bound, dinosaurian relatives perished.”

Certain species of birds that rely on trees and forests to survive were also greatly affected by the wildfires. Although many of them were not instantly killed like what happened to land-dwelling animals, deforestation and other environmental effects of the wildfires eventually wiped them out.

The catastrophic event that occurred millions of years ago managed to kill off over 70 percent of all living creatures on Earth. Although Australia’s current situation is far from the effects of an asteroid impact, the country’s biodiversity is still taking a huge hit due to the ongoing bushfires.

Given the condition of the current situation and the high number of animals affected, it is possible that mass extinctions across different species could occur.

Australian firefighters tackle a bushfire near Batemans Bay
Australian firefighters tackle a bushfire near Batemans Bay AFPTV / Peter PARKS