Chapter

The Dynamics of Mass Extinctions

David Sepkoski

in Rereading the Fossil Record

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780226748559
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226748580 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226748580.003.0010
The Dynamics of Mass Extinctions

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This chapter focuses on the dynamics of mass extinction. The study of extinction helps the paleobiologists in rereading the fossil record. However, many of them during this time expressed frustration at the lack of a coherent theory that explained the role of mass extinctions in macroevolution. For example, it was clear that extinctions influenced the patterns of diversity, and even the MBL simulation project recognized extinction as an important variable in evolution. The chapter raises important questions about extinction—and especially mass extinction—persisted: How frequent were major episodes of extinction? What were their causes and mechanisms? How geographically widespread were the largest extinctions? How could major extinctions be reliably recognized—separated from background noise—in large fossil data sets? And, most broadly, what role did extinction have in determining the patterns of life's history? These questions were central to the project of rereading the fossil record. The chapter also discusses the revision of the traditional synthetic view of evolution that many paleobiologists were trying to establish.

Keywords: dynamics of mass extinction; fossil record; MBL simulation; coherent theory; macroevolution

Chapter.  11583 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Palaeontology

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