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The Ordovician-Silurian extinction event, often referred to as the Ordovician Mass Extinction or less commonly the Silurian Mass Extinction, was the third-largest of the five major extinction events in Earth's history in terms of percentage of genera that went extinct and second largest overall in the overall loss of life. Between about 450 Ma to 440 Ma, two bursts of extinction, separated by one million years, appear to have happened. This was the second biggest extinction of marine life, ranking only below the Late Permian-Early Triassic extinction. At the time, all known life was confined to the seas and oceans. More than 60 per cent of marine invertebrates died, including two-thirds of all brachiopod and bryozoan families. Particularly affected were brachiopods, bivalves, echinoderms, bryozoans, and corals. The immediate cause of extinction appears to have been the continental drift of a significant landmass into the south polar region, causing a global temperature drop, resulting in a glaciation, and consequent lowering of the sea level, which destroyed species' habitats around the continental shelves. Evidence for this was found through deposits in the Sahara Desert. When Gondwana passed over the south pole in the Ordovician, global climatic cooling occurred to such a degree that there was widespread continental glaciation. This glaciation event also caused a lowering of sea level worldwide as large amounts of water became tied up in ice sheets. A combination of this lowering of sea level, reducing ecospace on continental shelves, in conjunction with the cooling caused by the glaciation itself are likely driving agents for the Ordovician mass extinction.

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