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Causes of the great mass extinction of marine organisms in the Late Devonian


The second of the five great mass extinctions of the Phanerozoic occurred in the Late Devonian. The number of species decreased by 70–82%. Major crises occurred at the Frasnian–Famennian and Devonian–Carboniferous boundary. The lithological and geochemical compositions of sediments, volcanic deposits, impactites, carbon and oxygen isotope ratios, evidence of climate variability, and sea level changes reflect the processes that led the critical conditions. Critical intervals are marked by layers of black shales, which were deposited in euxinic or anoxic environments. These conditions were the main direct causes of the extinctions. The Late Devonian mass extinction was determined by a combination of impact events and extensive volcanism. They produced similar effects: emissions of harmful chemical compounds and aerosols to cause greenhouse warming; darkening of the atmosphere, which prevented photosynthesis; and stagnation of oceans and development of anoxia. Food chains collapsed and biological productivity decreased. As a result, all vital processes were disturbed and a large portion of the biota became extinct.

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Correspondence to M. S. Barash.

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Original Russian Text © M.S. Barash, 2016, published in Okeanologiya, 2016, Vol. 56, No. 6, pp. 946–958.

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Barash, M.S. Causes of the great mass extinction of marine organisms in the Late Devonian. Oceanology 56, 863–875 (2016).

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