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Mass extinctions and sea-level changes

Author(s): Hallam A, Wignall PB

Abstract

Review of sea-level changes during the big five mass extinctions and several lesser extinction events reveals that the majority coincide with large eustatic inflexions. The degree of certainty with which these eustatic oscillations are known varies considerably. Thus, the late Ordovician and end Cretaceous extinctions are associated with unequivocal, major regressions demonstrated from numerous, widespread regions. In contrast, the multiple, high frequency sea-level changes reported for the Frasnian–Famennian crisis (based on the supposed depth-preferences of conodont taxa) have little support from sequence stratigraphic analyses, which reveals the interval to be one of highstand. The end Permian mass extinction has long been related to a severe, first order lowstand of sea level [Newell, N.D., 1967. Revolutions in the history of life.

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