- Paleontology and paleobotany - general
- Invasive species during the Late Devonian biodiversity crisis
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Invasive species during the Late Devonian biodiversity crisis
Stigall, Alycia L. Department of Geological Sciences, and Ohio Center for Biology and Evolutionary Studies, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio.
- Late Devonian overview
- Characterizing speciation depression
- Causes of speciation depression
- Impact of invasive species
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The Late Devonian biodiversity crisis occurred approximately 385–370 million years ago and ranks as one of the five largest biodiversity crises in Earth's history. Although the Late Devonian is often referred to as a “mass extinction” event, recent analyses indicate that extinction rates were not statistically elevated above the typical or “background” extinction rate in geologic time (Fig. 1). Instead, the primary cause of biodiversity loss was reduced formation of new species during this interval. Consequently, attempts to explain the causes behind the dramatic biodiversity loss and ecological reorganization must examine the evolutionary processes that control speciation, that is, the formation of new species. Explanations that focus solely on mechanisms that promote extinction, such as asteroid impacts, climate change, or oceanic overturn, cannot satisfactorily explain the observed biodiversity patterns. New studies focused on speciation in Late Devonian marine organisms of Laurentia (the ancient continent that included present-day North America, Greenland, and part of Western Europe) have demonstrated that a series of rapid marine transgressions (pulses of sea-level rise) facilitated the geographic expansion of invasive, generalist species and eliminated the primary way that new species typically form. In short, the Late Devonian biodiversity crisis is primarily attributable to invasive species, which is a problem that is also present in modern ecosystems.
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