If every human being vanished off the face of the planet today, cockroach geologists tens of millions of years in the future would still be able to find our traces, according to researchers who say the case for a new "Age of Man" geologic time period is stronger than ever. In a study published in the journal Science, researchers say we are now in the Anthropocene era, which will be permanently etched on the planet through markers such as radioactive fallout and materials like plastics and concrete, reports the CBC. Exactly when the new era began is still being debated, though the researchers note that there was a "Great Acceleration" of human population growth and industrialization in the mid-20th century—and nuclear fallout began after the Trinity detonation in New Mexico on July 16, 1945.
The researchers note that in recent centuries, there have also been "geologically unprecedented transglobal species invasions and changes associated with farming and fishing, permanently reconfiguring Earth's biological trajectory." The most recent geological epoch, the Holocene, began at the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago. This year, scientific authorities will decide whether to formally declare that we are in a new era, the Guardian reports. The CBC notes that mass extinctions and climate change, both of which are happening now, are often seen at the beginning of new epochs. (A geological historian says giant rats could end up as the planet's dominant species millions of years from now.)