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Catastrophic hypotheses for mass extinctions are commonly criticized because many taxa gradually disappear from the fossil record prior to the extinction. Presumably, a geologically instantaneous catastrophe would not cause a reduction in diversity or a series of minor extinctions before the actual mass extinction. Two types of sampling effects, however, could cause taxa to appear to decline before their actual biotic extinction. The first of these is reduced sample size provided in the sedimentary record and the second, which we examine in greater detail, is artificial range truncation. The fossil record is discontinuous in time and the recorded ranges of...

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