Biological selectivity of extinction

  • Kitchell Jennifer A. 
General Aspects
Part of the Lecture Notes in Earth Sciences book series (LNEARTH, volume 30)


Selective survival across major extinction event horizons is both a bothersome puzzle and an opportunity to delimit the biologically interesting question of causality. Heritable differences in characters may have predictable consequences in terms of differential species survival. Differences in magnitude and intensity of extinction are insufficient to distinguish background from mass extinction regimes. Biological adaptations may establish links of causality between abnormal times of mass extinction and normal times of background extinction. A current hypothesis, developed from a comparison of extinction patterns among Late Cretaceous molluscs, is that biological adaptations of organisms, effective during normal times of Earth history, are ineffectual during times of crises. A counter example is provided by data from high-latitude laminated marine strata that preserve evidence of an actively exploited life-history strategy among Late Cretaceous phytoplankton. These data illustrate a causal dependency between a biological character selected for during times of background extinction and macroevolutionary survivorship during an unusual time of crisis.


Late Cretaceous Mass Extinction Extinction Rate Differential Survival Planktonic Foraminifera 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kitchell Jennifer A. 
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geological Sciences and Museum of PaleontologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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