Modern & Ancient Extinction Selectivity in the Oceans

Conservation paleobiology is an emerging field of paleontology that hopes to apply the techniques and data of paleontology to help solve the modern biodiversity crisis. In our initial foray into conservation paleobiology, my colleagues and I have used logistic regression to determine the ecological characteristics associated with extinction threat (as determined by the IUCN Red List). When looking across modes of tiering, motility, and feeding as well as body size, we found that large chordates and mollusks were much more at risk for extinction than their counter parts. An analysis of the fossil record indicates that this pattern is very distinct from the past 65 million years and looks more like the selectivity patterns of mass extinctions. Based on previous studies of terrestrial mammals as well as heavily fished fisheries, we interpret this pattern as being caused by human fishing & in the oceans. In ongoing work I am exploring the impacts such a size selective extinction may have on physical mixing of the oceanic water column and seafloor sediments.

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