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The geological record represents the only source of data available for documenting long-term historical patterns of extinction intensity and extinction susceptibility. Such data are critical for testing hypotheses of extinction causality in the modern world as well as in deep time. The study of extinction is relatively new. Prior to 1800, extinctions were not accepted as a feature of the natural environment. Even after extinctions were recognized to have occurred in Earth's geological past, they were deemed to have played a minor role in mediating evolutionary processes until the 1950s. Global extinction events are now recognized as having been a...

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