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Why do mass extinctions occur? The demise of the dinosaurs has been discussed exhaustively, but has never been out into the context of other extinction events. This is the first systematic review of the mass extinctions of all organisms, plant and animal, terrestrial and marine, that have occurred in the history of life. This includes the major crisis 250 million years ago which nearly wiped out all life on Earth. By examining current paleontological, geological, and sedimentological evidence of environmental changes, the cases for explanations based on climate change, marine regressions, asteroid or comet impact, anoxia, and volcanic eruptions are all critically evaluated.
"Hallam and Wignall provide a sobering antidote to simplistic applications of extraterrestrial "crash-bang-you're-dead" interpretations."
– New Scientist
"the book is unique in that all major extinction intervals are considered [...] Mass Extinctions and their Aftermath will richly reward the efforts made by students and laymen to come to grips with the material presented [...] the book is well-written, comprehensive, copiously referenced and closely reasoned. It succeeds in its aim to be the foremost scientific introduction to the phenomenon of mass extinction on virtually every level. Hallam and Wignall's volume is the only comprehensive "single author" treatment of the major features of the entire paleontological extinction record. It deserves a wide audience within and outside the earth science community."
– Times Higher Education Supplement
"The authors have provided a comprehensive and well-documented account of all the known mass extinctions of plant and animal life which have occurred on this planet."
– Aslib Book Guide, vol. 63, no. 3, March 1998
"[...] It is a pleasure to recommend a book that should be purchased by anyone (yes, even undergraduates) interested in geology [...] This book [...] represents an impressive summary of the literature [...] a valuable addition to the mass extinction literature [...]"
– S.Conway Morris, Geological Magazine No.5, 1998
"It was great to see at last a volume that beautifully summarized the metrics of mass extinction, the causes of extinction, and described the events in both paleontological and geological detail. Those interested in learning about the Cenomanian-Turonian extinction, for example, will be treated to descriptions of the players, the important geological sections from which evidence has been produced, and front-running hypotheses to explain the extinction. The volume is replete with excellent illustrations, good writing, and sufficient but not stifling attention to detail. Hallam and Wignall are to be commended for a fine volume that expresses opinions, but is fair-minded enough to represent a range of viewpoints successfully. The major mass extinctions are each given a chapter, with discussions of the biotic changes, sedimentary regimes, isotopic evidence, and biogeography [...] This book is a must for the bookshelf of every paleontologist and neontologist."
– The Quarterly Review of Biology