Climate, Oxygen, and Extinctions

Climate, Oxygen, and Extinctions

Journal of Paleontology
Vol. 44, No. 3 (May, 1970), pp. 405-409

Animal Extinctions, Oxygen Consumption, and Atmospheric History
A. Lee McAlester

Past susceptibility to family-level extinctions within major taxa of fossil animals shows a close positive correlation (r = .905) with oxygen uptake in Recent representatives of the same taxa. Taxa that have had high extinction rates have high present-day rates of oxygen consumption; taxa that have had unusually stable histories have very low rates. This correlation shows that periodic episodes of animal extinction were caused by environmental stresses that selectively eliminated animals having high rates of energy utilization. Past variation in the concentration of atmospheric oxygen appears to be among the mostprobable environmental changes that could be expected to produce such an effect.


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