Impressions of the extinct Ediacaran fossils: Dickinsonia (center) and the smaller anchor-shaped Parvancorina (left), in sandstone at the Nilpena Ediacara National Park in South Australia.

Scientists have just discovered a hidden sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s ancient past

The peak of the Ediacaran period, about 550 million years ago, was a boom time for life in Earth’s oceans. Petals shaped like feathers sucked nutrients from the water like snails Kimberella grazed on microbial mats, and the jellyfish’s ancestors were just beginning to make waves.

But then 80% of life on Earth disappeared, leaving no trace in the fossil record.

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