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pseudoextinctionPseudoextinktion (ger.)

  • The apparent extinction of a group of organisms whose descendants survive, but in a form modified by evolution (and hence are classified as a distinct group). (OED 2011)

    A ‘taxonomic extinction’ results from arbitrary (but nonetheless necessary) change of generic names from an ancestral to a descendant stage within a continuous lineage. Such pseudoextinction will not be mistaken for the real termination of one lineage and the appearance of another, if the phylogenetic relationships are understood.

    Webb, S.D. (1969). Extinction-origination equilibria in late Cenozoic land mammals of North America. Evolution 23, 688-702: 692. 


    [Extinction of a species may also occur when phyletic changes have so accumulated that the organism is judged to be a new species; this type of extinction is called phyetic extinction.

    Raup, D.M. & Stanley, S.M. (1971). Principles of Paleontology: 293; cf. 98.]

    Raup, D.M. & Stanley, S.M. (1971). Principles of Paleontology: 330.

    As Van Valen pointed out, his analysis ignored pseudoextinction: the termination of a group not by extinction in the literal sense but by transformation (phyletically) into another group.

    Raup, D.M. (1975). Taxonomic survivorship curves and Van Valen’s law. Paleobiology 1, 82-96: 83.


    Nearly all species terminate by true extinction and not by transformational passage into a descendant […] (a phenomenon called ‘pseudoextinction’ by paleontologists).

    Gould, S.J. (2002). The Structue of Evolutionary Theory: 606.