A lab contribution published today in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences USA investigates patterns in the occurrence and magnitude of published mass mortality events. These rare demographic events coincide with the rapid and catastrophic demise of individuals. Like other rare events, the increase in scientific publishing might bias our perception of the frequency of mass mortality events. Although the occurrence of mass mortality events generally follows the increase in the number of scientific publications, this factor only explains part of the variation in the occurrence of events. Moreover, the magnitude (number of killed individuals) of mass mortality events has increased among birds, fish and marine invertebrates. Among amphibians and reptiles, the magnitude of mass die-offs has decreased, but the occurrence of events has increased sharply over the past decades.
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