Biodiversity Loss in the Extinction

Our best data compilations from the fossil record indicate that 21 percent of all of the marine families, and 57 percent of all the marine genera, of animals present in the world's oceans did not survive this biodiversity crisis. Global tallies of species-level data for the extinction are incomplete, but they indicate that a minimum of 70 percent of marine species perished; some estimates suggest that the species kill may have been as high as 82 percent.

The Late Devonian extinction is unusual in that the diversity crisis does not occur at the end of the geologic period, as is the case with the other "Big Five" mass extinctions (the Late Ordovician, Permo-Triassic, Late Trias-sic, and Cretaceous-Tertiary). The Late Devonian Period is divided into two geologic stages: the Frasnian and the Famennian, from older to younger. The diversity crisis occurred within the Late Devonian in a series of extinction pulses during the latest Frasnian and the earliest Famennian (Figure 1).

After the extinction pulses ceased, the Late Devonian world had lost more than three-quarters of its species.

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