Abstract

Catastrophe theory, the recent development of René Thorn, permits mathematical descriptions to be obtained for physical processes in which the dependent parameter has abrupt changes in value and, over some range of values of the independent parameters, assumes one of several values for a given value of the independent parameters. Catastrophe theory is briefly discussed and potential applications to geologic processes are mentioned. The theory is applied to the Permian extinction of marine invertebrates; our conclusion is that a reduction in oceanic salinity was a more significant factor in the extinction of marine invertebrates than was a reduction in the area of shallow seas.

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