Past climate change (often caused by natural changes in greenhouse gases due to volcanic activity) has been responsible for countless species’ extinctions during the history of life on Earth. But, to date, it has not been clear what factors cause species to be more or less resilient to such change, and how the magnitude of climate change affects extinction risk. The results of a new study, published today in Science, could help to identify species most at risk today from human-driven climate change.

Led by Cooper Malanoski and Professor Erin Saupe, both of Oxford Earth Sciences, this research sought to answer this question by analysing the fossil record for marine invertebrates (such as sea urchins, snails, and shellfish) over the past 485 million years. Marine invertebrates have a rich and well-studied fossil record, making it possible to identify when, and potentially why, species become extinct.

Using over 290,000 fossil records covering more than 9,200 genera, the researchers collated a dataset of key traits that may affect resilience to extinction, including traits not studied in depth previously, such as preferred temperature. This trait information was integrated with climate simulation data to develop a model to understand which factors were most important in determining the risk of extinction during climate change. Read more at University of Oxford

Source: ENN

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