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Geophysicist to look at causes of mass extinctions, Dec. 4

The role of catastrophes in mass extinctions will be explored in a lecture at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, in McCosh 50. Vincent Courtillot, a geophysicist at the University of Paris, will present an address titled "Mass Extinctions in the Phanerozoic: A Single Cause and, If Yes, Which?"

Courtillot is the author of "Evolutionary Catastrophes: The Science of Mass Extinctions" (Cambridge University Press, 1999), which described the two main theories explaining mass extinctions of dinosaurs and other species: asteroid impact and massive volcanic eruptions. In recent years, the impact hypothesis has gained precedence, but Courtillot suggested that cataclysmic volcanic activity could be linked to most of the main mass extinction events in the history of the Earth.

Courtillot's talk is designated as the Louis Clark Vanuxem Lecture and is part of the University's Public Lectures Series. It will be Webcast; for viewing information, visit WebMedia online.

Contact: Tom Bartus (609) 258-3601

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