"This is the ultimate whodunnit--a detective story 445 million years in the making, in which an eccentric bunch of characters identifies the culprits behind the greatest catastrophes in history. A book about one apocalypse--much less five--could have been a daunting read, were it not for the wit, lyricism, and clarity that Peter Brannen brings to every page. He is a storyteller at the height of his powers, and he has found a story worth telling." 
—Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes

"If readers have time for only one book on the subject, this wonderfully written, well-balanced, and intricately researched (though not too dense) selection is the one to choose." 
—Library Journal (starred review)

"Robert Frost only gave us two options to end the world: fire or ice. Peter Brannen informs us in this fun rollick through deep history that there are so many more interesting ways to go." 
--Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish and American Catch

“Want to know the future? Look to the past, the deep past. That’s one of the many insights you'll glean from reading Brannen's entertaining, engaging, elegant book. The Earth has survived much worse than what people are currently throwing at it in the form of global warming, changes in nature, and even mass death. But that’s not particularly good news for civilization—unless we change our ways fast.”
—David Biello, author of The Unnatural World

“This is a book about rocks: a vivid, fascinating, sometimes horrifying book about rocks and the story they tell about all the past and future lives of our planet. Peter Brannen has the knack of opening up new worlds under our feet: oceans half a billion years old under Cincinnati, forests hundreds of millions of years old in upstate New York, the sabre-toothed cats under Los Angeles. He follows the great scientific quest to understand the five great extinctions in Earth’s history which utterly changed life on this planet, a riveting and disturbing story because the more we can imagine a different kind of Earth, the more we understand how it may be changing now, and how little it would take to bring on one more ‘end of the world.’”
—Michael Pye, author of The Edge of the World



Five times in earth's history the majority of animal life has been wiped out in geologically brief catastrophes. With the discovery in 1980 that an asteroid played a role in one of these doomsdays--the death of the dinosaurs--scientists became confident that they had found a killer that might explain each of the mass extinctions. But in the past three decades, as geologists, paleontologists and geochemists have scoured the earth investigating these other Armageddons, they have found no evidence for devastating asteroid impacts in the rocks. Instead they have found the signatures of extreme climate and ocean changes, and--in the worst mass extinction of all time--a global warming worst-case-scenario, driven by huge injections of carbon dioxide spewing from apocalyptic volcanoes. The Ends of the World explores these discoveries and surveys deep time through a combination of interviews with the world's top paleontologists and geologists, as well as road trips to the most important crime scenes in the planet's history. It also illustrates how these five major mass extinctions both gave rise to our modern world while providing a terrifying window into our possible future.