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Science. 2004 Oct 8;306(5694):264-6.

Morphological disparity of ammonoids and the mark of Permian mass extinctions.

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Centre de Sédimentologie-Paléontologie, FRE CNRS 2761, Université de Provence, 3 place Victor-Hugo, F-13331 Marseille Cedex 3, France.


The taxonomic diversity of ammonoids, in terms of the number of taxa preserved, provides an incomplete picture of the extinction pattern during the Permian because of a strongly biased fossil record. The analysis of morphological disparity (the variety of shell shapes) is a powerful complementary tool for testing hypotheses about the selectivity of extinction and permits the recognition of three distinct patterns. First, a trend of decreasing disparity, ranging for about 30 million years, led to a minimum disparity immediately before the Permian-Triassic boundary. Second, the strongly selective Capitanian crisis fits a model of background extinction driven by standard environmental changes. Third, the end-Permian mass extinction operated as a random, nonselective sorting of morphologies, which is consistent with a catastrophic cause.

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