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Long survival of “living fossils” with low taxonomic diversities in an evolving food web

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 April 2016

Katsuhiko Yoshida*
Environmental Biology Division, National Institute for Environmental Studies, 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8506, Japan. E-mail:


Living fossils are taxonomic groups surviving for a long time without any remarkable morphological change. Most of them retain low taxonomic diversities. Although some of them have survived in refuges to avoid predators and competitors, not all living fossils live in refuges. The survival of these groups, therefore, should be discussed in the context of biological interaction. I carried out computer simulations of a model food web system, in which each species feeds on others according to its feeding preference. The system evolves via evolution of species. In the simulation, some clades, like “living fossils,” survived for a long time with low species diversities. Such clades consisted of species with low evolutionary rates, which result in high predation pressure and intraclade competition for food. Nevertheless, the clades sustainably utilize prey clades and are consequently provided with sufficient food. In addition, because of the low species diversities of the clades, predators of the clades soon become extinct through lack of food. This study strongly suggests that in an evolving food web system, the low evolutionary rates of living fossils allow the long survival of those groups with low taxonomic diversities.

Copyright © The Paleontological Society 

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