News of the WeekPaleontology

Paring Down the Big Five Mass Extinctions

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Science  07 Dec 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5549, pp. 2072-2073
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5549.2072b

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BOSTON-- The five largest extinctions of the past half-billion years seemed immutable milestones on the path to modern life. But now a pair of paleontologists say that two of the Big Five just don't measure up. Instead, they argue, the losers should be demoted to "mass depletions": plunges in diversity caused by still-mysterious failures to produce enough new species.