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Activity Number: 294
Type: Contributed
Date/Time: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 : 10:30 AM to 12:20 PM
Sponsor: Section on Bayesian Statistical Science
Abstract - #309774
Title: Bayesian Modeling of Ecosystems in the Permian Mass Extinction
Author(s): Michael Karcher*+ and Steve Wang and Peter Roopnarine and Kenneth D. Angielczyk
Companies: Swarthmore College and Swarthmore College and California Academy of Sciences and California Academy of Sciences
Address: 2436 North Line Street, Colmar, PA, 18915,
Keywords: paleontology ; MCMC ; simulation-based inference ; food webs ; Metropolis-Hastings

The Permian mass extinction was the most severe extinction event in the history of life, killing an estimated 90% of all species. However, its causes remain mysterious. Using fossil data from the Karoo Basin in South Africa, we construct a food web model of Permian ecosystems before the extinction event. We group fossil species into 22 guilds based on their ecological roles and use a paleobiological computer model to simulate perturbations to these food webs. We then use Markov Chain Monte Carlo techniques, specifically the Metropolis-Hastings Algorithm, to construct a Bayesian posterior distribution for the various extinction-event scenarios, thereby inferring the initial level of extinction in each guild.

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