Experimental Studies of Extinction Dynamics

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Science  05 Nov 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5442, pp. 1175-1177
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5442.1175

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Extinction of populations occurs naturally, but global extinction rates are accelerating, making understanding extinction a high priority for conservation. Extinction in experimental populations of brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana) was measured to assess hypothesized extinction processes. Greater initial population size, greater maximum population size supported by the environment, and lower variation in environmental conditions reduced the likelihood of extinction, as hypothesized. However, initial population size was less important, and maximum population size and environmental variation were more important than often hypothesized. Unexpectedly, deterministic oscillations in population size due to inherent nonlinear dynamics and overcrowding were as important or more important than hypothesized processes.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: Belovsky{at}

  • Present address: Biology Department, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, LA 70504, USA.

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