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Volume 22 Issue 1 (January 2012)

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Article, pp. 4-9 | Full Text | PDF (2.2MB)

Speciation collapse and invasive species dynamics during the Late Devonian “Mass Extinction”

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Alycia L. Stigall1

1 Dept. of Geological Sciences and Ohio Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio 45701, USA


The Late Devonian (Frasnian-Famennian) interval includes one of the most dramatic intervals of biotic turnover in the Phanerozoic. Statistical evaluation of diversity change reveals that the primary cause of biodiversity decline was reduced speciation during the crisis interval, not elevated extinction rates. Although various hypotheses have been proposed to explain extinction increase during the Late Devonian, potential causes for reduced speciation have previously been largely unaddressed. Recent analyses focusing on biogeographic and phylogenetic patterns of species in shallow marine ecosystems of Laurentia indicate that a dramatic increase in interbasinal species invasions, facilitated by transgressive pulses, fundamentally affected biodiversity by enabling range expansion of ecological generalists and eliminating vicariance, the primary pathway by which new species typically form. Modern species invasions may result in similar speciation loss, exacerbating the current biodiversity crisis.

Manuscript received 18 May 2011; accepted 3 Nov. 2011.

DOI: 10.1130/G128A.1