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Rereading the Fossil RecordThe Growth of Paleobiology as an Evolutionary Discipline$
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David Sepkoski

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780226748559

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226748580.001.0001

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The Dynamics of Mass Extinctions

The Dynamics of Mass Extinctions

(p.323) Chapter Nine The Dynamics of Mass Extinctions
Rereading the Fossil Record

David Sepkoski

University of Chicago Press

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

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