Body-size reduction in vertebrates following the end-Devonian mass extinction

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Science  13 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6262, pp. 812-815
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7373

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The small will inherit the Earth…

Understanding how communities and ecosystems recovered from the previous five global extinction events sheds light on how extinctions shape broad patterns of biodiversity. Sallan et al. looked across vertebrate species during and after the Devonian extinction (see the Perspective by Wagner). Small-bodied species, with rapid reproductive rates, dominated post-extinction communities, despite the presence of many successful large-bodied species before the extinction. This pattern mimics, to some degree, current patterns of extinction, suggesting that we might expect similar loss of large-bodied species if we continue along our current path.

Science, this issue p. 812; see also p. 736