Was the Late Ordovician mass extinction truly exceptional?

The Late Ordovician mass extinction event is the oldest of the five great extinction events in the fossil record. It has long been regarded as an outlier among mass extinctions, primarily due to its association with a cooling climate. However, recent temporally better resolved fossil biodiversity estimates complicate this view, providing growing evidence for a prolonged but punctuated biodiversity decline modulated by changes in atmospheric composition, ocean chemistry, and viable habitat area. This evolving view invokes extinction drivers similar to those that occurred during other major extinctions; some are even factors in the current human-induced biodiversity crisis. Even this very ancient and, at first glance, exceptional event conveys important lessons about the intensifying ‘sixth mass extinction’.