Thursday, March 10, 2016

What Environmental Factor Wiped out so Many Crocodyliforms Across the Jurassic-Cretaceous Boundary?

Environmental drivers of crocodyliform extinction across the Jurassic/Cretaceous transition


Tennant et al


Crocodyliforms have a much richer evolutionary history than represented by their extant descendants, including several independent marine and terrestrial radiations during the Mesozoic. However, heterogeneous sampling of their fossil record has obscured their macroevolutionary dynamics, and obfuscated attempts to reconcile external drivers of these patterns. Here, we present a comprehensive analysis of crocodyliform biodiversity through the Jurassic/Cretaceous (J/K) transition using subsampling and phylogenetic approaches and apply maximum-likelihood methods to fit models of extrinsic variables to assess what mediated these patterns. A combination of fluctuations in sea-level and episodic perturbations to the carbon and sulfur cycles was primarily responsible for both a marine and non-marine crocodyliform biodiversity decline through the J/K boundary, primarily documented in Europe. This was tracked by high extinction rates at the boundary and suppressed origination rates throughout the Early Cretaceous. The diversification of Eusuchia and Notosuchia likely emanated from the easing of ecological pressure resulting from the biodiversity decline, which also culminated in the extinction of the marine thalattosuchians in the late Early Cretaceous. Through application of rigorous techniques for estimating biodiversity, our results demonstrate that it is possible to tease apart the complex array of controls on diversification patterns in major archosaur clades.

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