Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Environmental determinants of extinction selectivity in the fossil record

Abstract

The causes of mass extinctions and the nature of biological selectivity during extinction events remain central questions in palaeobiology. Although many different environmental perturbations have been invoked as extinction mechanisms1,2,3, it has long been recognized that fluctuations in sea level coincide with many episodes of biotic turnover4,5,6. Recent work supports the hypothesis that changes in the areas of epicontinental seas have influenced the macroevolution of marine animals7,8, but the extent to which differential environmental turnover has contributed to extinction selectivity remains unknown. Here I use a new compilation of the temporal durations of sedimentary rock packages to show that carbonate and terrigenous clastic marine shelf environments have different spatio-temporal dynamics and that these dynamics predict patterns of genus-level extinction, extinction selectivity and diversity among Sepkoski’s Palaeozoic and modern evolutionary faunae9. These results do not preclude a role for biological interactions or unusual physical events as drivers of macroevolution, but they do suggest that the turnover of marine shelf habitats and correlated environmental changes have been consistent determinants of extinction, extinction selectivity and the shifting composition of the marine biota during the Phanerozoic eon.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Palaeozoic and modern evolutionary fauna genus diversity and extinction.
Figure 2: Carbonate and siliciclastic macrostratigraphy.
Figure 3: First differences in evolutionary fauna extinction rates versus environmental truncation rates.

References

  1. Bambach, R. K. Phanerozoic biodiversity mass extinctions. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 34, 127–155 (2006)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Hallam, A. & Wignall, P. B. Mass Extinctions and their Aftermath (Oxford, Oxford, 1997)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Raup, D. M. Large-body impact and extinction in the Phanerozoic. Paleobiology 18, 80–82 (1992)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Hallam, A. The case for sea-level change as a dominant causal factor in mass extinction of marine invertebrates. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 325, 437–455 (1989)

    Google Scholar 

  5. Newell, N. D. Periodicity in invertebrate paleontology. J. Paleontol. 26, 371–385 (1952)

    Google Scholar 

  6. Johnson, J. G. Extinction of perched faunas. Geology 2, 479–482 (1974)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Peters, S. E. Geologic constraints on the macroevolutionary history of marine animals. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 102, 12326–12331 (2005)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Peters, S. E. Genus extinction, origination, and the durations of sedimentary hiatuses. Paleobiology 32, 387–407 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Sepkoski, J. J. A factor analytic description of the Phanerozoic marine fossil record. Paleobiology 7, 36–53 (1981)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Bambach, R. K. in Phanerozoic Diversity Patterns: Profiles in Macroevolution (ed. Valentine, J. W.) 191–253 (Princeton, Princeton, 1985)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Bambach, R. K. Seafood through time: changes in biomass, energetics, and productivity in the marine ecosystem. Paleobiology 19, 372–397 (1993)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Sepkoski, J. J. A kinetic-model of Phanerozoic taxonomic diversity 3: post-Paleozoic families and mass extinctions. Paleobiology 10, 246–267 (1984)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Stanley, S. M. An analysis of the history of marine animal diversity. Paleobiology 33 (Suppl.). 1–55 (2007)

    Google Scholar 

  14. Alroy, J. Are Sepkoski’s evolutionary faunas dynamically coherent? Evol. Ecol. Res. 6, 1–32 (2004)

    Google Scholar 

  15. Stanley, S. M. in Patterns of Evolution as Illustrated by the Fossil Record (ed. Hallam, A.) 209–250 (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1977)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  16. Vermeij, G. J. Evolution and Escalation (Princeton, Princeton, 1987)

    Google Scholar 

  17. Madin, J. S. et al. Statistical independence of escalatory ecological trends in Phanerozoic marine invertebrates. Science 312, 897–900 (2006)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Knoll, A. H., Bambach, R. K., Payne, J. L., Pruss, S. & Fischer, W. W. Paleophysiology and the end-Permian mass extinction. Earth Planet Sci. Lett. 256, 295–313 (2007)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Fraiser, M. L. & Bottjer, D. J. When bivalves took over the world. Paleobiology 33, 397–413 (2007)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Erwin, D. E. Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago (Princeton, Princeton, 2006)

    Google Scholar 

  21. Wright, V. P. & Burchette, T. P. in Sedimentary Environments (ed. Reading, H. G.) 325–394 (Blackwell, Oxford, 1996)

    Google Scholar 

  22. McKinney, F. K. & Hageman, S. J. Paleozoic to modern marine ecological shift displayed in the northern Adriatic Sea. Geology 34, 881–884 (2006)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Foote, M. Substrate affinity and diversity dynamics of Paleozoic marine animals. Paleobiology 32, 345–366 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Kiessling, W. & Aberhan, M. Environmental determinants of marine benthic biodiversity dynamics through Triassic-Jurassic time. Paleobiology 33, 414–434 (2007)

    Google Scholar 

  25. Peters, S. E. Macrostratigraphy of North America. J. Geol. 114, 391–412 (2006)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Foote, M. Origination and extinction components of taxonomic diversity: a new approach. J. Geol. 111, 1125–1148 (2003)

    Google Scholar 

  27. Allison, P. A. & Briggs, D. E. G. Paleolatitudinal sampling bias, Phanerozoic species-diversity, and the end-Permian extinction. Geology 21, 65–68 (1993)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Walker, L., Wilkinson, B. & Ivany, L. C. Continental drift and Phanerozoic carbonate accumulation in shallow-shelf and deep-marine settings. J. Geol. 110, 75–87 (2002)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Sepkoski, J. J. A Compendium of Fossil Marine Animal Genera. Bull. Am. Paleontol. 363 (Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, New York, 2002)

    Google Scholar 

  30. Childs, O. E. Correlation of stratigraphic units of North America: COSUNA. Bull. Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geol. 69, 173–180 (1985)

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

I thank M. Foote for discussion. M. Foote, W. Kiessling and B. Wilkinson read the manuscript. I also acknowledge the donors of the American Chemical Society and US National Science Foundation EAR-0544941 for financial support.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shanan E. Peters.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Figures S1 -S7 and their explanatory captions as well as Supplementary Tables S1-S3. All of these materials supplement the main text and are referred to therein. (PDF 2660 kb)

Supplementary Table 4

The file contains Supplementary Table 4. This tab-delimited text file contains the raw data used in this study. Columns are as follows: • stage, interval abbreviation followed by Sepkoski • date, age at interval base in millions of years before present • carbonate_q, carbonate truncation rate measured per-package, per-interval • clastic_q, siliciclastic truncation rate measured per-package, per-interval • pzq, Palaezoic EF extinction rate measured per-genus per-interval • mdq, Modern EF extinction rate measured per-genus per-interval • pz_q_opt, optimized extinction rates for Palaeozoic EF • md_q_opt, optimized extinction rates for Modern EF • Napzq, rates of Palaeozoic EF extinction from Sepkoski•s compendium for North American genera • Namdq, rates of Modern EF extinction from Sepkoski•s compendium for North American genera (XLS 19 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Peters, S. Environmental determinants of extinction selectivity in the fossil record. Nature 454, 626–629 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07032

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07032

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing