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New mid-Cretaceous stable isotope (δ18O and δ13C) records of multiple planktonic foraminiferal species and coexisting coccoliths from Blake Nose (western North Atlantic) document a major depth-ecology reorganization of planktonic foraminifera. Across the Albian/Cenomanian boundary, deep-dwelling Praeglobotruncana stephani and Rotalipora globotruncanoides adapted to living at a shallower depth, while, at the same time, the population of surface-dwelling Paracostellagerina libyca declined. Subsequently, the opportunistic species Hedbergella delrioensis shifted to a deep environment, and the deep-dwelling forms Rotalipora montsalvensis and Rotalipora reicheli first appeared. The primary paleoenvironmental cause of the observed changes in planktonic adaptive strategies is uncertain, yet their coincidence with an earliest Cenomanian cooling trend reported elsewhere implicates the importance of reduced upper-ocean stratification. Although there has been an implicit assumption that the species-specific depth habitats of fossil planktonic foraminifera were invariant through time, planktonic paleoecology is a potential variable. Accordingly, the possibility of evolutionary changes in planktonic foraminiferal depth ecology should be a primary consideration (along with other environmental parameters) in paleoceanographic interpretations of foraminiferal stable isotope data.
In the modern world, biotic diversity is typically higher in low-latitude tropical regions where there is abundant insolation (light and heat) and low thermal seasonality. Because these factors broadly covary with latitude, separating their possible effects on species diversity is difficult. The Eocene was a much more equable world, however, with low temperature seasonality extending into lower-insolation higher, cooler latitudes, allowing us to test these factors by comparing insect species diversity in (1) modern, temperate, low-insolation, highly seasonal Harvard Forest, Massachusetts, U.S.A., 42°29'N; (2) modern, tropical, high-insolation, low-seasonality La Selva, Costa Rica, 10°26'N, and; (3) Eocene, temperate, low-insolation, yet low-seasonality McAbee, British Columbia, Canada, above 50°N paleolatitude. We found insect diversity at McAbee to be more similar to La Selva than to Harvard Forest, with high species richness of most groups and decreased diversity of ichneumon wasps, indicating that seasonality is key to the latitudinal diversity gradient. Further, midlatitude Eocene woody dicot diversities at McAbee, Republic (Washington, U.S.A.), and Laguna del Hunco (Argentina) are also high, similar to modern tropical samples, higher than at the modern midlatitude Harvard Forest. Modern correlations between latitude, species diversity, and seasonal climates were established some time after the Eocene.
Temporal patterns in species occupancy and geographic range size are a major topic in evolutionary ecology research. Here we investigate these patterns in Pliocene to Recent large mammal species and genera in Western Eurasia. By using an extensively sampled fossil record including some 700 fossil localities, we found occupancy and range size trajectories over time to be predominantly peaked among both species and genera, meaning that occupancy and range size reached their maxima midway along taxon existence. These metrics are strongly correlated with each other and to body size, after phylogeny is accounted for by using two different phylogenetic topologies for both species and genera. Phylogenetic signal is strong in body size, and weaker but significant in both occupancy and range size mean values among genera, indicating that these variables are heritable. The intensity of phylogenetic signal is much weaker and often not significant at the species level. This suggests that within genera, occupancy and range size are somewhat variable. However, sister taxa inherit geographic position (the center of their geographic distribution). Taken together, the latter two results indicate that sister species occupy similar positions on the earth's surface, and that the expansion of the geographic range during the existence of a given genus is driven by range expansion of one or more of the species it includes, rather than simply being the summation of these species ranges.
Key morphological traits reveal changes in functional morphospace occupation of reef fish assemblages over time. We used measurements of key functional attributes (i.e., lower jaw length and orbit diameter) of 208 fossil fish species from five geological periods to create bivariate plots of functional morphological traits through time. These plots were used to examine possible function and ecological characteristics of fossil reef fish assemblages throughout the Mesozoic and Cenozoic. A previously unknown trend of increasing orbit diameter over time became apparent. The Teleostei are the principal drivers of this change. The Eocene appears to mark a dramatic increase in two previously rare feeding modes in fishes: nocturnal feeding and high-precision benthic feeding. Interestingly, members of the Pycnodontiformes had relatively large eyes since the Triassic and appear to be the ecological precursors of their later teleost counterparts and may have been among the earliest nocturnal feeding fishes. Our results highlight potential changes in the roles of fishes on coral reefs through time.
The variation in time-averaging between different types of marine skeletal accumulations within a depositional system is not well understood. Here we provide quantitative data on the magnitude of time-averaging and the age structure of the sub-fossil record of two species with divergent physical and ecological characteristics, the brachiopod Bouchardia rosea and the bivalve Semele casali. Material was collected from two sites on a mixed carbonate-siliciclastic shelf off the coast of Brazil where both species are dominant components of the local fauna.
Individual shells (n = 178) were dated using amino acid racemization (aspartic acid) calibrated with 24 AMS radiocarbon dates. Shell ages range from modern to 8118 years b.p. for brachiopods, and modern to 4437 years for bivalves. Significant differences in the shape and central tendency of age-frequency distributions are apparent between each sample. Such differences in time-averaging magnitude confirm the assumption that taphonomic processes are subject to stochastic variation at all spatial and temporal scales. Despite these differences, each sample is temporally incomplete at centennial resolution and three of the four samples have similar right-skewed age-frequency distributions. Simulations of temporal completeness indicate that samples of both species from the shallow site are consistent with a more strongly right-skewed and less-complete age-frequency distribution than those from the deep site.
We conclude that intrinsic characteristics of each species exert less control on the time-averaging signature of these samples than do extrinsic factors such as variation in rates of sedimentation and taphonomic destruction. This suggests that brachiopod-dominated and bivalve-dominated shell accumulations may be more similar in temporal resolution than previously thought, and that the temporal resolution of multi-taxic shell accumulations may depend more on site-to-site differences than on the intrinsic properties of the constituent organisms.
To understand how well fossil assemblages represent original communities, paleoecologists seek comparisons between death assemblages and their source communities. These comparisons have traditionally used nearshore, marine invertebrate assemblages for their logistical ease, high abundance, and comparable census data from living communities. For large marine vertebrates, like cetaceans, measuring their diversity in ocean ecosystems is difficult and expensive. Cetaceans, however, often beach or strand themselves along the coast, and archived data on stranded cetaceans have been recorded, in some areas, over several decades. If the stranding record is interpreted as a death assemblage, then the stranding record may represent a viable alternative for measuring diversity in living communities on directly adjacent coastlines. This study assessed the fidelity of the cetacean stranding record in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. The living community in this region has been studied for over 100 years and, recently, extensive and systematic live transect surveys using ship-based observing platforms have produced a valuable source of live diversity data. Over this same period, the U.S. Marine Mammal Stranding Program has collected and archived a record of cetacean strandings along the U.S. Pacific coastline, providing an ideal death assemblage for comparison. Using fidelity metrics commonly used in marine invertebrate taphonomy, I determined that the stranding record samples the living cetacean community with high fidelity, across fine and coarse taxonomic ranks, and at large geographic scales (>1000 km of coastline). The stranding record is also richer than the live surveys, with live-dead ratios between 1.1 and 1.3. The stranding record recovers similar rank-order relative abundances as live surveys, with statistical significance. Also, I applied sample-based rarefaction methods to generate collector's curves for strandings along the U.S. Pacific Coast to better evaluate the spatiotemporal characteristics of the stranding record. Results indicate that saturation (i.e., sampling >95% assemblage) at species, genus, and family levels occurs in less than five years of sampling, with families accumulating faster than species, and larger geographic regions (i.e., longer coastlines) accumulating taxa the most rapidly. The high fidelity of the stranding record, measured both in richness and by ranked relative abundance, implies that ecological structure from living cetacean communities is recorded in the death assemblage, a finding that parallels marine invertebrate assemblages, though at far larger spatial scales. These results have implications for studying cetacean ecology in both modern and ancient environments: first, these results imply that the stranding record, over sufficiently long time intervals, yields a richer assemblage than using line-transect methods, and faithfully records aspects of community structure; and second, these results imply that geochronologically well-constrained fossil cetacean assemblages might preserve ecologically relevant features of community structure, depending on depositional and taphonomic conditions.
All evolution attributable to natural selection, at any level, is due to a causal covariance between fitness and phenotype. Over macroevolutionary time scales, species selection is one of many possible mechanisms for generating large-scale morphological trends. For species selection to sort morphology, a correlation between morphology and taxonomic diversification rate must be present. Other trend mechanisms (driven mechanisms, e.g., a bias in the direction of speciation) produce a systematic change in the mean phenotype over time. All mechanisms can co-occur. Here I demonstrate (1) an inverse correlation between diversification rate and calyx complexity that demonstrates the effect of species selection on morphology. Genera with simple calyces tend to increase in diversity, whereas genera with complex calyces have a net decrease in diversity; and (2) the presence of a driven trend mechanism in monobathrid crinoids where descendant genera tend to be simpler than their ancestors. The separate effects of these two classes of trend mechanisms can be combined by using the Price's Theorem, which partitions the contribution to the overall change in calyx complexity over time accurately among selection and driven mechanisms. Price's Theorem provides significant conceptual and methodological clarification of the contribution of multiple and interacting hierarchical mechanisms in generating large-scale trends.
Biometric analyses are useful tools for the study of organisms, their phylogenetic affiliation, and the pattern and rate of their evolution. Various morphometric techniques have been developed to analyze morphological variation, but methodological choices are often made arbitrarily because quantitative comparisons are lacking or inconclusive. Here we address morphometric quantification of taxa with few unambiguously identifiable landmarks (<15), utilizing ornamented and unornamented gastropod shells. Support vector machines were applied to evaluate classification performances of landmark (LMA), elliptic Fourier (EFA), and semi-landmark analysis (SLM). This evaluation is based on the discrimination of between-group differences relative to within-group variation, and thus allows comparing how the techniques treat different types of biological information. The results suggest that EFA performs slightly better than SLM (and certainly LMA) in discerning a priori identified taxa with unornamented shells, but that SLM is significantly superior to other techniques for ornamented shells. Alignment and homology problems may cause the subtle variations in ornamentation to become blurred as noise in EFA, even though EFA is often cited to be able to deal with complex shapes. Performance of LMA depends entirely on how accurately the structure can be covered with landmarks. Guidelines in choosing a morphometric technique in diverse cases are provided.