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Late Ordovician Mass Extinction: Earth, fire and ice

Harper, David A T

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The Late Ordovician Mass Extinction was the earliest of the ‘big’ five extinction events and the earliest to affect the trajectory of metazoan life. Two phases have been identified near the start of the Hirnantian period and in the middle. It was a massive taxonomic extinction, a weak phylogenetic extinction and a relatively benign ecological extinction. A rapid cooling, triggering a major ice age that reduced the temperature of surface waters, prompted a drop in sea level of some 100 m and introduced toxic bottom waters onto the shelves. These symptoms of more fundamental planetary processes have been associated with a range of factors with an underlying driver identified as volcanicity. Volcanic eruptions, and other products, may have extended back in time to at least the Sandbian and early Katian, suggesting the extinctions were more protracted and influential than hitherto documented.


Harper, D. A. T. (2024). Late Ordovician Mass Extinction: Earth, fire and ice. National Science Review, 11(1), Article nwad319.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 15, 2023
Online Publication Date Dec 18, 2023
Publication Date 2024-01
Deposit Date Mar 5, 2024
Publicly Available Date Mar 5, 2024
Journal National Science Review
Print ISSN 2095-5138
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 1
Article Number nwad319
Keywords Ordovician, LOME, biotas, paleoecology, palaeobiogeography
Public URL


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