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Understanding the role of environmental tolerances of species in macroevolution

Narrow environmental tolerance is an important predictor of extinction risk in marine invertebrates. The ratio of habitat specialists to habitat generalists may also depend on diversity because high diversity may force species toward their ecological optima via competition. Mass extinctions have the potential to modify the habitat breadth of surviving species. Utilizing the Paleobiology Database of Phanerozoic fossil occurrences we address the following research questions:

  • Do times of high diversity correlate with more specialized faunas?
  • Do species surviving mass extinctions benefit in achieving a wider environmental occupancy than before because of release from competition?
  • Do species surviving mass extinctions suffer from bottleneck effects and show lower environmental occupancy or no change?


  • Gwen Antell, University of Oxford
  • Erin Saupe, University of Oxford
  • Wolfgang Kiessling, Universität Erlangen Nürnberg