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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jun 19;104(25):10506-11. Epub 2007 Jun 11.

The effect of geographic range on extinction risk during background and mass extinction.

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Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Wide geographic range is generally thought to buffer taxa against extinction, but the strength of this effect has not been investigated for the great majority of the fossil record. Although the majority of genus extinctions have occurred between major mass extinctions, little is known about extinction selectivity regimes during these "background" intervals. Consequently, the question of whether selectivity regimes differ between background and mass extinctions is largely unresolved. Using logistic regression, we evaluated the selectivity of genus survivorship with respect to geographic range by using a global database of fossil benthic marine invertebrates spanning the Cambrian through the Neogene periods, an interval of approximately 500 My. Our results show that wide geographic range has been significantly and positively associated with survivorship for the great majority of Phanerozoic time. Moreover, the significant association between geographic range and survivorship remains after controlling for differences in species richness and abundance among genera. However, mass extinctions and several second-order extinction events exhibit less geographic range selectivity than predicted by range alone. Widespread environmental disturbance can explain the reduced association between geographic range and extinction risk by simultaneously affecting genera with similar ecological and physiological characteristics on global scales. Although factors other than geographic range have certainly affected extinction risk during many intervals, geographic range is likely the most consistently significant predictor of extinction risk in the marine fossil record.

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