Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Evolution: The beneficiaries of mass extinction

October 10, 2017

The mass extinction at the end of the Permian (about 252 million years ago) was the largest in Earth history, in which 70 percent of land-living vertebrates became extinct. This drastic biodiversity loss led to global 'disaster faunas', …more

Mass extinctions were followed by periods of low diversity in which certain new species dominated wide regions of the supercontinent Pangaea, reports a new study.

The findings, published in Nature Communications, indicate that mass extinctions may have predictable consequences and provide insights into how biological communities may be expected to change in the future as a result of current high extinction rates.

Mass extinctions are thought to produce 'disaster faunas', communities dominated by a small number of widespread species. However, studies to test this theory have been rare and limited in scope, such as being focused on small regions.

The researchers, from the University of Birmingham (UK), North Carolina State University (USA), University of Leeds (UK) and CONICET Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales (Argentina) assessed long-term changes in biodiversity in the supercontinent Pangaea. They analysed changes in nearly 900 animal species between approximately 260 million and 175 million years ago (spanning the late Permian to Early Jurassic). This period witnessed two mass extinctions and the origins of dinosaurs and many modern vertebrate groups.

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