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Mass extinctions and community structure through the Phanerozoic

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Emily Mitchell.

Our planet has suffered repeated mass extinctions that have shaped the evolutionary history of biodiversity through time. Although current state-of-the-art research has given us a thorough understanding of the causes and consequences of mass extinction events, existing research often ignores the role of ecosystem structure in providing resilience to environmental change. Ecological theory states that primary extinctions, which are a function of stress type or organism sensitivity, can lead to cascading secondary extinctions where species perish because they are unable to meet energetic requirements from available prey. Extinction selectivity studies always assume extinctions are primary despite ecological theory hinting that many victims of mass extinctions are unlikely to have become extinct as a direct effect of abiotic stress, but probably did so in response to cascading secondary effects. Furthermore, less attention has been given to the periods of ecosystem recovery in the aftermath of mass extinction events and thus the nature and timing of ecological recovery following biotic crises is poorly understood. In this seminar, I will detail the cutting-edge advancements in ecological modelling that the DeepBio@Leeds group are applying to the fossil record in order to better understand how communities respond to biotic crises and how they recover in the aftermath of these cataclysmic events.

This talk is part of the Zoology Departmental Seminar Series series.

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