Douglas H Erwin

Current plant and animal diversity preserves at most 1-2% of the species that have existed over the past 600 million years. But understanding the evolutionary impact of these extinctions requires a variety of metrics. The traditional measurement is loss of taxa (species or a higher category) but in the absence of phylogenetic information it is difficult to distinguish the evolutionary depth of different patterns of extinction: the same species loss can encompass very different losses of evolutionary history. Furthermore, both taxic and phylogenetic measures are poor metrics of morphologic disparity. Other measures of lost diversity include: functional diversity, architectural components, behavioral and social repertoires, and developmental strategies. The canonical five mass extinctions of the Phanerozoic reveal the loss of different, albeit sometimes overlapping, aspects of loss of evolutionary history. The end-Permian mass extinction (252 Ma) reduced all measures of diversity. The same was not true of other episodes, differences that may reflect their duration and structure. The construction of biodiversity reflects similarly uneven contributions to each of these metrics. Unraveling these contributions requires greater attention to feedbacks on biodiversity and the temporal variability in their contribution to evolutionary history. Taxic diversity increases after mass extinctions, but the response by other aspects of evolutionary history is less well studied. Earlier views

Department of Paleobiology, MRC-121, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC 20013-7013; and Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501.

172 / Douglas H. Erwin

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