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Extinction from a paleontological perspective


Extinction of widespread species is common in evolutionary time (millions of years) but rare in ecological time (hundreds or thousands of years). In the fossil record, there appears to be a smooth continuum between background and mass extinction; and the clustering of extinctions at mass extinctions cannot be explained by the chance coincidence of independent events. Although some extinction is selective, much is apparently random in that survivors have no recognizable superiority over victims. Extinction certainly plays an important role in evolution, but whether it is constructive or destructive has not yet been determined.

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1. P. Dodson (1990) Counting dinosaurs: How many kinds were there? Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, 87, 76087612.

2. J. J. Sepkoski Jr, (1989) Periodicity in extinction and the problem of catastrophism in the history of life. J. Geol. Soc. London, 146, 719.

3. J. J. Sepkoski Jr, (1990) The taxonomic structure of periodic extinction. Geol. Soc. Amer. Spec. Paper, 247, 3344.

5. L. W. Alvarez , W. Alvarez , F. Asaro , and H. V. Michel (1980) Extraterrestrial cause for the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction. Science, 208, 10951108.

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7. D. M. Raup (1979) Size of the Permo-Triassic bottleneck and its evolutionary implications. Science, 206, 217218.

8. P. Copper (1988) Ecological succession in Phanerozoic reef ecosystems: Is it real? Palaios, 3, 136152.

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European Review
  • ISSN: 1062-7987
  • EISSN: 1474-0575
  • URL: /core/journals/european-review
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