Research ArticlePALEONTOLOGY

Selectivity and the effect of mass extinctions on disparity and functional ecology

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Science Advances  05 May 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 19, eabf4072
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abf4072


Selectivity of mass extinctions is thought to play a major role in coupling or decoupling of taxonomic, morphological, and ecological diversity, yet these measures have never been jointly evaluated within a single clade over multiple mass extinctions. We investigate extinction selectivity and changes in taxonomic diversity, morphological disparity, and functional ecology over the ~160-million-year evolutionary history of diplobathrid crinoids (Echinodermata), which spans two mass extinctions. Whereas previous studies documented extinction selectivity for crinoids during background extinction, we find no evidence for selectivity during mass extinctions. Despite no evidence for extinction selectivity, disparity remains strongly correlated with richness over extinction events, contradicting expected patterns of disparity given nonselective extinction. Results indicate that (i) disparity and richness can remain coupled across extinctions even when selective extinction does not occur, (ii) simultaneous decreases in taxonomic diversity and disparity are insufficient evidence for extinction selectivity, and (iii) selectivity differs between background and mass extinction regimes.

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