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Article: Mass extinctions over the last 500 myr: an astronomical cause?

Palaeontology - Volume 60 Part 2 - Cover
Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 60
Part: 2
Publication Date: March 2017
Page(s): 159 167
Author(s): Anatoly D. Erlykin, David A. T. Harper, Terry Sloan, and Arnold W. Wolfendale
Addition Information

How to Cite

ERLYKIN, A.D., HARPER, D.A.T., SLOAN, T., WOLFENDALE, A.W. 2017. Mass extinctions over the last 500 myr: an astronomical cause?. Palaeontology, 60, 2, 159-167. DOI: 10.1111/pala.12283

Author Information

  • Anatoly D. Erlykin - Lebedev Physical Institute Russian Academy of Sciences Moscow Russia (Email:
  • David A. T. Harper - Palaeoecosystems Group Department of Earth Sciences Durham University Durham UK (Email:
  • David A. T. Harper - Department of Geology Lund University Lund Sweden
  • Terry Sloan - Department of Physics Lancaster University Lancaster UK (Email:
  • Arnold W. Wolfendale - Department of Physics Durham University Durham UK (Email:

Publication History

  • Issue published online: 22 February 2017
  • Manuscript Accepted: 19 January 2017
  • Manuscript Received: 09 September 2016

Funded By

Kohn Foundation
Leverhulme Trust
Wenner‐Gren Foundation

Online Version Hosted By

Wiley Online Library (Free Access)
Get Article: Wiley Online Library [Free Access]


A Fourier analysis of the magnitudes and timing of the Phanerozoic mass extinctions (MEs) demonstrates that many of the periodicities claimed in other analyses are not statistically significant. Moreover we show that the periodicities associated with oscillations of the Solar System about the galactic plane are too irregular to give narrow peaks in the Fourier periodograms. This leads us to conclude that, apart from possibly a small number of major events, astronomical causes for MEs can largely be ruled out.

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