The blue graph shows the apparent percentage (not the absolute number) of marine animalgenera becoming extinct during any given time interval. It does not represent all marine species, just those that are readily fossilized. The labels of the traditional "Big Five" extinction events and the more recently recognised Capitanian mass extinction event are clickable links; see Extinction event for more details. (source and image info)
The Late Ordovician mass extinction (LOME), sometimes known as the end-Ordovician mass extinction or the Ordovician-Silurian extinction, is the first of the "big five" major mass extinction events in Earth's history, occurring roughly 445 million years ago (Ma). It is often considered to be the second-largest known extinction event, in terms of the percentage of genera that became extinct. Extinction was global during this interval, eliminating 49–60% of marine genera and nearly 85% of marine species. Under most tabulations, only the Permian-Triassic mass extinction exceeds the Late Ordovician mass extinction in biodiversity loss. The extinction event abruptly affected all major taxonomic groups and caused the disappearance of one third of all brachiopod and bryozoan families, as well as numerous groups of conodonts, trilobites, echinoderms, corals, bivalves, and graptolites. Despite its taxonomic severity, the Late Ordovician mass extinction did not produce major changes to ecosystem structures compared to other mass extinctions, nor did it lead to any particular morphological innovations. Diversity gradually recovered to pre-extinction levels over the first 5 million years of the Silurian period.
The second pulse (interval) of extinction, referred to as LOMEI-2, occurred in the later half of the Hirnantian as the glaciation abruptly receded and warm conditions returned. The second pulse was associated with intense worldwide anoxia (oxygen depletion) and euxinia (toxic sulfide production), which persisted into the subsequent Rhuddanian stage of the Silurian Period.
Some researchers have proposed the existence of a third distinct pulse of the mass extinction during the early Rhuddanian, evidenced by a negative carbon isotope excursion and a pulse of anoxia into shelf environments amidst already low background oxygen levels. Others, however, have argued that Rhuddanian anoxia was simply part of the second pulse, which according to this view was longer and more drawn out than most authors suggest.
^ abSole, R. V.; Newman, M. (2002). "The earth system: biological and ecological dimensions of global environment change". Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change, Volume Two: Extinctions and Biodiversity in the Fossil Record. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 297–391.