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October 25 2012

Fossil study helps pinpoint extinction risks for ocean animals


What makes some ocean animals more prone to extinction than others? A new study of marine fossils provides a clue.

An analysis of roughly 500 million years of fossil data for marine invertebrates reveals that ocean animals with small geographic ranges have been consistently hard hit—even when populations are large, the authors report.

The oceans represent more than 70% of the Earth's surface. But because monitoring data are harder to collect at sea than on land, we know surprisingly little about the conservation status of most marine animals. By using the fossil record to study how ocean extinctions occurred in the past, we may be better able to predict species' vulnerability in the future.

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