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Decoupling of taxonomic and ecologic severity of Phanerozoic marine mass extinctions

Mary L. Droser, David J. Bottjer, Peter M. Sheehan and George R. McGhee
Decoupling of taxonomic and ecologic severity of Phanerozoic marine mass extinctions
Geology (Boulder) (August 2000) 28 (8): 675-678


There have been five major mass extinctions among the marine biota during the approximately 0.6 b.y. history of metazoan life on Earth. These mass extinctions have been ranked from the largest to the smallest by the severity of taxonomic diversity losses, but they have not been ranked by the severity of the ecologic changes that they produced. Here we utilize a system of paleoecological levels that allows for the ranking of ecological degradation or shifts associated with significant taxonomic events, along with an analysis of large-scale paleoenvironmental patterns of two of the great evolutionary faunas, to compare the relative ecologic degradation caused by two major mass extinctions. The Late Ordovician and Late Devonian mass extinctions produced similar taxonomic losses (marine families declined approximately 22% and 21%, respectively). However, our analyses show that whereas the Late Ordovician extinction resulted in only minimal permanent ecological change, the Late Devonian extinction resulted in the complete restructuring of many components of the marine ecosystem. Thus, the large-scale taxonomic and ecological significance of these extinction events are decoupled, implying that some taxa are ecologically more critical than others.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 28
Serial Issue: 8
Title: Decoupling of taxonomic and ecologic severity of Phanerozoic marine mass extinctions
Affiliation: University of California at Riverside, Department of Earth Sciences, Riverside, CA, United States
Pages: 675-678
Published: 200008
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 34
Accession Number: 2000-056040
Categories: Stratigraphy
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 1 table
Secondary Affiliation: University of Southern California, USA, United StatesMilwaukee Public Museum, USA, United StatesRutgers University, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2018, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 200018
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