A species can expect to live about one million years. This is not a span of time we understand; more than a one and six zeroes, it’s the opportunity for a lineage to rewrite Life’s odds against Death. When a species dies, it means one less card up Life’s sleeve.
On five separate occasions, Life has lost more than three quarters of the cards up its sleeve. (Yes, Life is an epic cheater.) Likely culprits include meteors, volcanoes, climate phenomena, and plants.
There’s a sixth occasion. Let’s call it “now,” or “soon.” Life’s cheating stash is again disappearing. Death is watching with interest, because Life never wins with fair play. The number of cards – pardon me, species – “…that have gone extinct in the last century would have otherwise taken between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear…” if the game was business as usual. In interest of fair play, one of the species is now evening the score of 3.5 billion years; in interest of fair play, one of the species is now playing on Death’s side.
In interest of fair play, that species should remember Life and Death play different games. Life will lose the cards to win the game, but Death keeps every card dealt, always.
And in interest of fair play, when the score gets so close that no one can tell the difference, Life and Death will always remain the best of friends. Together, they’ll pack up any remaining cards1 and go find some other game to while away the time between the stars. Sometimes, it’s just time for a new deck.
1 Between Life’s stash and Death’s hoard, there’s usually not that many left.