Rapid recovery from the Late Ordovician mass extinction

Andrew Zachary Krug, Mark E. Patzkowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Scopus citations


Understanding the evolutionary role of mass extinctions requires detailed knowledge of postextinction recoveries. However, most models of recovery hinge on a direct reading of the fossil record, and several recent studies have suggested that the fossil record is especially incomplete for recovery intervals immediately after mass extinctions. Here, we analyze a database of genus occurrences for the paleocontinent of Laurentia to determine the effects of regional processes on recovery and the effects of variations in preservation and sampling intensity on perceived diversity trends and taxonomic rates during the Late Ordovician mass extinction and Early Silurian recovery. After accounting for variation in sampling intensity, we find that marine benthic diversity in Laurentia recovered to preextinction levels within 5 million years, which is nearly 15 million years sooner than suggested by global compilations. The rapid turnover in Laurentia suggests that processes such as immigration may have been particularly important in the recovery of regional ecosystems from environmental perturbations. However, additional regional studies and a global analysis of the Late Ordovician mass extinction that accounts for variations in sampling intensity are necessary to confirm this pattern. Because the record of Phanerozoic mass extinctions and postextinction recoveries may be compromised by variations in preservation and sampling intensity, all should be reevaluated with sampling-standardized analyses if the evolutionary role of mass extinctions is to be fully understood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17605-17610
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 21 2004


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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