The temporal distribution of the major extinctions over the past 250 million years has been investigated statistically using various forms of time series analysis. The analyzed record is based on variation in extinction intensity for fossil families of marine vertebrates, invertebrates, and protozoans and contains 12 extinction events. The 12 events show a statistically significant periodicity (P < 0.01) with a mean interval between events of 26 million years. Two of the events coincide with extinctions that have been previously linked to meteorite impacts (terminal Cretaceous and Late Eocene). Although the causes of the periodicity are unknown, it is possible that they are related to extraterrestrial forces (solar, solar system, or galactic).