Study explores ancient ecosystem response to a ‘big five’ mass extinction

As the planet faces the dawn of a sixth mass extinction, scientists are searching for clues about the uncertain road ahead by exploring how ancient ecosystems collapsed and bounced back from traumatic upheavals. A new study follows the lengthy collapses and revival of South African ecosystems during one of the “big five” mass extinctions, the Permian-Triassic event, revealing unexpected results about the types of animals that were most vulnerable to extinction, and the factors that might best predict community stability during times of great change. The study’s authors—including Peter Roopnarine, PhD, of the California Academy of Sciences—say inventive, cutting-edge modeling techniques helped highlight the critical importance of understanding food webs (knowing “who eats what”) when trying to predict what communities look like before, during, and after a mass extinction. —> Read More