The case for extraterrestrial causes of extinction.Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1989; 325:421-31; discussion 431-5.PT
The dramatic increase in our knowledge of large-body impacts that have occurred in Earth's history has led to strong arguments for the plausibility of meteorite impact as a cause of extinction. Proof of causation is often hampered, however, by our inability to demonstrate the synchronism of specific impacts and extinctions. A central problem is range truncation: the last reported occurrences of fossil taxa generally underestimate the true times of extinction. Range truncation, because of gaps in sedimentation, lack of preservation, or lack of discovery, can make sudden extinctions appear gradual and gradual extinctions appear sudden. Also, stepwise extinction may appear as an artefact of range truncation. These effects are demonstrated by experiments performed on data from field collections of Cretaceous ammonities from Zumaya (Spain). The challenge for future research is to develop a new calculus for treating biostratigraphic data so that fossils can provide more accurate assessments of the timing of extinctions.