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Fossils show recovery from extinction event helped shape evolutionary history

3/28/2019

Matthew Carroll
March 27, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ancient sea-floor dwellers are providing new clues about how mass extinctions steer life’s evolutionary history, according to scientists.

Researchers at Penn State found the recovery period following the second largest extinction on record, some 444 million years ago, had a bigger evolutionary impact than the extinction event itself on brachiopods, shelled, clam-like animals that once dominated the sea floor.

The brachiopods survived the Late Ordovician mass extinction with enough diversity to recover, but only certain members of the order were able to rebound, the scientists said. 

The findings, published in the journal Paleobiology, indicate recovery periods may be as important as extinctions themselves in determining long-term evolutionary trajectories and deserve further study, researchers said.  More

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