New Study Says Mass Extinction Is Equal-Opportunity For All Species

In the age of discrimination, there is at least one event we can all expect to have the same treatment from, albeit that event is mass extinction. A new study reveals that mass extinction may be an equal threat to all species, widespread or local, as opposed to previous studies that suggested more widespread species were safer.

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No Species is Safe During Mass Extinction Events Says New Study

A new study published in the journal Nature Communications reports that all species are at the same risk for being wiped out during mass extinction events. This new theory contradicts previous studies that indicated a species that was more widespread would have better chances for survival.

Scientists have tended to believe that wider geographic locations of a species would generally encourage that species existence in the case of local catastrophes. For example, a major volcanic eruption may decimate a species in one specific area, but the animals of the same species that lived in other areas in the world would continue the bloodline.

However, this tended to not be the case in the global mass extinction event that occurred near the Triassic and Jurassic periods. According to Dr. Alex Dunhill, from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, and Professor Matthew Wills from the University of Bath’s Milner Centre for Evolution, the fossil records indicated that having a wider presence around the globe did not necessarily allow a species to survive.

Volcanic Eruptions, Rapid Climate Change in Mass Extinction Affects Species Equally

Though only five mass extinction events have occurred that had a global impact, the researchers analyzing the fossils from the Triassic-Jurassic period believe that during this particular event, the insurance of having concurred many geographical ranges did not provide benefits to the species.

The researchers’ study was the first of its kind to measure the relationship between extinct species and geographic range.

Dunhill and Wills used maps to show the geographical distribution of species and how that distribution was altered during the Triassic to Jurassic periods. Using the same maps, they compared distribution changes in geographic range to the species’ extinction rates.

The fossil records revealed similar results between the extinction of land animals and aquatic animals.

Mass Extinction Events May Destroy Entire Species, But Also Allows Other Species to Flourish

The researchers attest that their conclusions are important in understanding a mass extinction event and the likelihood of specific groups dying out, in particular regards to whether a widespread species is more apt at survival.

The research proved that during the fourth mass extinction event around 200 million years ago certain species that were widespread and well-represented around the globe didn’t make the cut, though others that were more rare seemed to survive and even thrive.

Near the Triassic period’s end, massive volcanic eruptions combined with dramatic climate changes killed off nearly 70 to 75 percent of all the world’s species. Luckily, during the following Jurassic era, the dinosaurs who were once rare and not as widespread ended up flourishing since their main competition, the ancient and terrifying crocodiles, had been obliterated.

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Though mass extinctions can seem devastating for many species, for others it can be a good thing. For example, during the Triassic extinction when the crocodile ancestors died away, the dinosaurs could rise to fame. Then when the dinosaurs died off in the fifth extinction, fish diversity exploded.

In other words, mass extinction isn’t bad for everyone and everything. Some species will survive and others won’t. The main takeaway from this study is that the next mass extinction event will be an equal-opportunity force in the evolutionary timeline.

Title Picture Credit to Joe Sampouw

Additional Image Credit to Sparkle Motion

Additional Image Credit to Alex Alishevskikh


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