Determinants of extinction in ancient and modern seas (Meeting)
Extinction is a critical process in evolution that affects not only the diversity of organisms alive at a given moment in time, but also the characteristics of their descendants. Life in the sea has long been thought to be buffered from extinction, but there is growing awareness that many marine species alive today are in trouble. Marine environments are changing rapidly due to a combination of stresses and relatively little is known about what long-term ecological and evolutionary impacts these changes will bring. The marine fossil record can be used as a natural laboratory for understanding how biological systems respond to large-scale environmental change, yet synthesizing this information to understand present-day biodiversity change has been hindered by the very different timescales involved and by lack of communication between scientists who study living versus fossil marine organisms. The proposed working group will bridge this disciplinary gulf by bringing together marine biologists and paleontologists to determine if there are general rules to extinction in the sea. Can lessons learned from the fossil record help us to understand biodiversity today and, if so, in what way? To address these questions, the working group will use existing data on the past and present biology of marine organisms, the nature of marine environmental change today and through geologic time, and the results of previous studies of extinction risk in the sea. This database will serve as an essential research tool for future ecological and evolutionary analyses that link present-day and deep-time biodiversity.