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Mass Extinction Web Sites: Some key references (technical articles)

 There is a vast amount of research on this mass extinctions. The following is a short list of some important and/or interesting research papers. You may be able to get these online through JSTOR, Science Direct or other online technical journal searches, or you may be able to get them through interlibrary loans

  1. Benton, M.J., 1995, Diversification and extinction in the history of life: Science, v. 268, p. 52-58. Highlights the exponential growth in fossil diversity through time punctuated by mass extinctions including the “Big 5.”
  2. Hallam, A., and Wignall, P.B., 1999, Mass extinctions and sea-level changes: Earth Science Reviews, v. 48, no. 4, p. 217-250. Reviews the coincidence of the big five mass extinctions and several lesser extinction events with large eustatic (sea-level) inflexions (mostly regressions or global falls in sea level) caused by glaciation, doming and volcanism, or other mechanisms.
  3. Jablonski, D., 1989, The biology of mass extinction: A paleontological view: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences, v. 325, no. 1128, Evolution and Extinction, p. 357-368. Compares and examines patterns of evolution during normal background rates vs. those that occur during mass extinctions. Indicates that mass extinctions provide opportunities for diversification of taxa that were not abundant prior to the mass extinction.
  4. Newell, N. D., 1963, Crises in the history of life: Scientific American, v. 208, no. 2, p. 77-92. A study of fossil families that determined there were at least six (included the “Big 5”), relatively sudden extinction events in earth history, rather than gradualistic evolution and extinction. This research was largely ignored until the Alvarez’s impact theory brought scientific and public attention to mass extinctions.
  5. Newell, N.D., 1967, Revolutions in the history of life: Geological Society of America Special Publication no. 89, p. 63–91 A follow-up to his 1963 publication that noted 6 large extinction events from the marine fossil record (including the Big 5) and demonstrated that they corresponded to major sea-level changes (mostly regressions or global falls in sea level). A mechanism was proposed that marine species extinction occurred through draining of the shallow marine shelves during sea-level falls.
  6. Raup, D.M., 1986, Biological extinction in earth history: Science, v. 231, p. 1528-1533. Examines the periodicity and evolutionary significance of mass extinctions.
  7. Raup, D.M., and Sepkoski, J., Jr., 1982, Mass extinctions in the marine fossil record: Science, v. 215, p. 1501-1503. Graphically shows the changes in the numbers of different types of marine fossils through time, highlighting several sudden, and dramatic decreases (extinctions) in marine fossils at the end of the Ordovician, (Devonian), Permian, Triassic, and Cretaceous periods that identify mass extinctions. This study is widely used in subsequent studies of mass extinctions.
  8. Sepkoski, J.J., 1998, Rates of speciation in the fossil record: Royal Society, Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, v. 353, no. 1366, p. 315-326 Discusses the variation of marine species through time. Includes an interesting figure that graphs the percent of new types of marine creatures (speciation) through time, essentially showing the radiations at the beginning of the Cambrian Period and following extinction events, including the “Big 5” mass extinctions, as well as a now-famous figure of the diversification and extinction of three major faunal groupings through time. Discusses various sources of large-scale variation in speciation including time, geography, and climate.
  9. Sepkoski, J.J., 2001, Mass extinctions, concepts of, in Levin, S.A., Encyclopedia of Biodiversity: Academic Press, v. 4, p. 97-110. A historical review of the concept of extinctions; abrupt vs. gradual vs. step-wise extinctions; fossils as evidence for interpreting extinctions; interpreting the magnitudes of extinctions; types of victims and survivors; recovery from extinctions; and modern biodiversity crisis.
  10. Simpson, G.G., 1985, Extinction: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, v. 129, no. 4, p. 407-416. Summary of the historical ideas surrounding the conceptual idea of “extinction” from the ancient Greeks, to Lamark and Cuvier, to Darwin.
  11. Wignall, P.B., 2001, Large igneous provinces and mass extinctions: Earth Science Reviews, v.53, no. 1-2, p. 1-33.Examines the coincidence in timing of several large extinction events with the formation of large igneous provinces (which represent periods of large volcanism). Six of eleven large igneous provinces coincide with evidence for global warming and marine anoxia, and this paper hypothesizes that volcanic CO2 emissions have a profound effect on the carbon cycle and global climate.


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