Biotic Transitions in Global Marine Diversity

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Science  21 Aug 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5380, pp. 1157-1160
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5380.1157

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Long-term transitions in the composition of Earth's marine biota during the Phanerozoic have historically been explained in two different ways. One view is that they were mediated through biotic interactions among organisms played out over geologic time. The other is that mass extinctions transcended any such interactions and governed diversity over the long term by resetting the relative diversities of higher taxa. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that macroevolutionary processes effecting biotic transitions during background times were not fundamentally different from those operating during mass extinctions. Physical perturbations at many geographic scales combined to produce the long-term trajectory of Phanerozoic diversity.

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