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Paleobiology. 1991;17(1):37-48.

A kill curve for Phanerozoic marine species.

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Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.
U Chicago, IL, Dept Geophysical Sciences


A kill curve for Phanerozoic species is developed from an analysis of the stratigraphic ranges of 17,621 genera, as compiled by Sepkoski. The kill curve shows that a typical species' risk of extinction varies greatly, with most time intervals being characterized by very low risk. The mean extinction rate of 0.25/m.y. is thus a mixture of long periods of negligible extinction and occasional pulses of much higher rate. Because the kill curve is merely a description of the fossil record, it does not speak directly to the causes of extinction. The kill curve may be useful, however, to li┬┐mit choices of extinction mechanisms.

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