Research ArticlePALEONTOLOGY

Paleozoic ammonoid ecomorphometrics test ecospace availability as a driver of morphological diversification

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Science Advances  09 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 37, eabc2365
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc2365


The early burst model suggests that disparity rises rapidly to fill empty ecospace following clade origination or in the aftermath of a mass extinction. Early bursts are considered common features of fossil data, but neontological studies have struggled to identify them. Furthermore, tests have proven difficult because factors besides ecology can drive changes in morphology. Here, we document the ecomorphometric evolution of the extinct Ammonoidea at 1-million-year resolution, from their origination in the Early Devonian (Emsian) to the Early Triassic (Induan), over ~156 million years. This time interval encompasses six global extinction events, including two of the Big Five, and incorporates multiple ammonoid radiations. However, we find no evidence for early bursts of ecomorphological disparity. This contradicts arguments that the temporal scope, or traits measured in genomic data, conceal evidence of early bursts. Rather, early bursts may be less prevalent in fossil data than is often assumed.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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