Rarity in mass extinctions and the future of ecosystems
Hull et al
The fossil record provides striking case studies of biodiversity loss and global ecosystem upheaval. Because of this, many studies have sought to assess the magnitude of the current biodiversity crisis relative to past crises—a task greatly complicated by the need to extrapolate extinction rates. Here we challenge this approach by showing that the rarity of previously abundant taxa may be more important than extinction in the cascade of events leading to global changes in the biosphere. Mass rarity may provide the most robust measure of our current biodiversity crisis relative to those past, and new insights into the dynamics of mass extinction.