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HOME > PAST ISSUE > May-June 2015 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

Modern Lessons from Ancient Food Webs

From the Cambrian Burgess Shale to ancient Egypt, food webs share surprising structural attributes. When redundancy is lost, the threat of extinction grows.

Justin D. Yeakel, Jennifer A. Dunne

Just as some bridges are "fracture critical," meaning the failure of one component can lead to the entire structure's collapse, some animal communities are more susceptible to mass extinction after losing a single or a few species. Yeakel and Dunne take lessons from deep, ancient, and recent history to show that many animal communities today are more susceptible to "domino effect" extinctions as they have lost redundancy and diversity.



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