457: Low level of extinction during ice age linked to adaptability
A Johns Hopkins University graduate student may have figured out why rates of extinction were so low for many of the major groups of marine life during one of the greatest ice ages of them all, which occurred from about 330 million to 290 million years ago, late in the Paleozoic Era.
The likely answer: because those aquatic life forms that did survive during this era were singularly equipped to endure severe fluctuations in temperature and sea levels. Those that were not died in a mass extinction that heralded the ice age's onset.
"These results not only clue us in to what happened many millions of years ago, but they also have implications for understanding the modern marine ecosystem," said Matthew Powell, a doctoral candidate in the Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at The Johns Hopkins University's Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. His paper on the topic appears in the May issue of Geology, published by the Geological Society of America.
That's natural selection at work on a massive scale.