The Ordovician was a time of drastic biological and geological change. Previous work has suggested that there was a dramatic increase in global diversity during this time, but also has indicated that regional dynamics and dynamics in specific environments might have been different. Here, we contrast two paleocontinents that have different geological histories through the Ordovician, namely Laurentia and Baltica. The first was situated close to the equator throughout the whole Ordovician, while the latter has traversed tens of latitudes during the same time. We predict that Baltica, which was under long-term environmental change, would show greater average and interval-to-interval origination and extinction rates than Laurentia. In addition, we are interested in the role of the environment in which taxa originated, specifically, the patterns of onshore–offshore dynamics of diversification, where onshore and offshore areas represent high-energy and low-energy environments, respectively. Here, we predict that high-energy environments might be more conducive for originations.
Our new analyses show that the global Ordovician spike in genus richness from the Dapingian to the Darriwilian Stage resulted from a very high origination rate at the Dapingian/Darriwilian boundary, while the extinction rate remained low. We found substantial interval-to-interval variation in the origination and extinction rates in Baltica and Laurentia, but the probabilities of origination and extinction are somewhat higher in Baltica than Laurentia. Onshore and offshore areas have largely indistinguishable origination and extinction rates, in contradiction to our predictions. The global spike in origination rates at the Dapingian/Darriwilian boundary is apparent in Baltica, Laurentia, and onshore and offshore areas, and abundant variability in diversification rates is apparent over other time intervals for these paleocontinents and paleoenvironments. This observation hints at global mechanisms for the spike in origination rates at the Dapingian/Darriwilian boundary but a domination of more regional and local mechanisms over other time intervals in the Ordovician.