Abstract

We show that the decline in the extinction rate during the Phanerozoic can be accurately described by a logarithmic fit to the cumulative total extinction. This implies that extinction intensity is falling off approximately as the reciprocal of time. We demonstrate that this observation alone is sufficient to explain the existence of the proposed power-law forms in the distribution of the sizes of extinction events and in the power spectrum of Phanerozoic extinction, results that previously have been explained by appealing to self-organized critical theories of evolutionary dynamics.

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