The timeline of the evolutionary history of life represents the current scientific theory outlining the major events during the development of life on planet Earth. Dates in this article are consensus estimates based on scientific evidence, mainly fossils.
In biology, evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organization, from kingdoms to species, and individual organisms and molecules, such as DNA and proteins. The similarities between all present day organisms imply a common ancestor from which all known species, living and extinct, have diverged. More than 99 percent of all species that ever lived (over five billion) are estimated to be extinct. Estimates on the number of Earth's current species range from 10 million to 14 million, with about 1.2 million or 14% documented, the rest not yet described. However, a 2016 report estimates an additional 1 trillion microbial species, with only 0.001% described.
There has been controversy between more traditional views of steadily increasing biodiversity, and a newer view of cycles of annihilation and diversification, so that certain past times, such as the Cambrian explosion, experienced maximums of diversity followed by sharp winnowing.
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