Tag Archives: Extinction

Stop the Press!! – Extinction Galore!

Latest Science contains an interesting K/Pg (K/T)-extinction related article.

Renne, P. R., Deino, A. L., Hilgen, F. J., Kuiper, K. F., Mark, D. F., Mitchell, W. S., Morgan, L. E., Mundil, R. & Smit, J., 2013: Time Scales of Critical Events Around the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary.
–Science: Vol. 339, #6120, pp. 684-687 [doi: 10.1126/science.1230492]



“Mass extinctions manifest in Earth’s geologic record were turning points in biotic evolution. We present 40Ar/39Ar data that establish synchrony between the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary and associated mass extinctions with the Chicxulub bolide impact to within 32,000 years. Perturbation of the atmospheric carbon cycle at the boundary likely lasted less than 5000 years, exhibiting a recovery time scale two to three orders of magnitude shorter than that of the major ocean basins. Low-diversity mammalian fauna in the western Williston Basin persisted for as little as 20,000 years after the impact. The Chicxulub impact likely triggered a state shift of ecosystems already under near-critical stress.”

And what happened after:

O’Leary, M. A., Bloch, J. I., Flynn, J. J., Gaudin, T. J., Giallombardo, A., Giannini, N. P., Goldberg, S. L., Kraatz, B. P., Luo, Z.-X., Meng, J., Ni, X., Novacek, M. J., Perini, F. A., Randall, Z. S., Rougier, G. W., Sargis, E. J., Silcox, M. T., Simmons, N. B., Spaulding, M., Velazco, P. M., Weksler, M., Wible, J. R. & Cirranello, A. L., 2013: The Placental Mammal Ancestor and the Post–K-Pg Radiation of Placentals.
–Science: Vol. 339, #6120, pp. 662-667 [doi: 10.1126/science.1229237]



“To discover interordinal relationships of living and fossil placental mammals and the time of origin of placentals relative to the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary, we scored 4541 phenomic characters de novo for 86 fossil and living species. Combining these data with molecular sequences, we obtained a phylogenetic tree that, when calibrated with fossils, shows that crown clade Placentalia and placental orders originated after the K-Pg boundary. Many nodes discovered using molecular data are upheld, but phenomic signals overturn molecular signals to show Sundatheria (Dermoptera + Scandentia) as the sister taxon of Primates, a close link between Proboscidea (elephants) and Sirenia (sea cows), and the monophyly of echolocating Chiroptera (bats). Our tree suggests that Placentalia first split into Xenarthra and Epitheria; extinct New World species are the oldest members of Afrotheria.!

DNA reveals Neanderthal extinction clues

Interesting! Shows that we don’t not nearly enough about this stuff yet…

Neanderthals were already on the verge of extinction in Europe by the time modern humans arrived on the scene, a study suggests.


the actual paper:


doi: 10.1093/molbev/mss074

Robust estimates of extinction time in the geological record

The rate at which a once-abundant population declines in density prior to local or global extinction can strongly influence the precision of statistical estimates of extinction time. Here we report the development of a new, robust method of inference which accounts for these potential biases and uncertainties, and test it against known simulated data and dated Pleistocene fossil remains (mammoths, horses and Neanderthals). Our method is a Gaussian-resampled, inverse-weighted McInerny et al. (GRIWM) approach which weights observations inversely according to their temporal distance from the last observation of a species’ confirmed occurrence, and for dates with associated radiometric errors, is able to sample individual dates from an underlying fossilization probability distribution. We show that this leads to less biased estimates of the ‘true’ extinction date. In general, our method provides a flexible tool for hypothesis testing, including inferring the probability that the extinctions of pairs or groups of species overlap, and for more robustly evaluating the relative likelihood of different extinction drivers such as climate perturbation and human exploitation.