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Science. 1986 Feb 21;231:833-6.

Periodic extinction of families and genera.

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  • 1Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Eight major episodes of biological extinction of marine families over the past 250 million years stand significantly above local background (P < 0.05). These events are more pronounced when analyzed at the level of genus, and generic data exhibit additional apparent extinction events in the Aptian (Cretaceous) and Pliocene (Tertiary) Stages. Time-series analysis of these records strongly suggests a 26-million-year periodicity. This conclusion is robust even when adjusted for simultaneous testing of many trial periods. When the time series is limited to the four best-dated events (Cenomanian, Maestrichtian, upper Eocene, and middle Miocene), the hypothesis of randomness is also rejected for the 26-million-year period (P < 0.0002).

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