Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How Dominant Were Disaster Taxa After the Permian Extinction

Quantitative analysis of the ecological dominance of benthic disaster taxa in the aftermath of the end-Permian mass extinction


Petsios et al


The end-Permian mass extinction, the largest extinction of the Phanerozoic, led to a severe reduction in both taxonomic richness and ecological complexity of marine communities, eventually culminating in a dramatic ecological restructuring of communities. During the Early Triassic recovery interval, disaster taxa proliferated and numerically dominated many marine benthic invertebrate assemblages. These disaster taxa include the bivalve genera Claraia, Unionites, Eumorphotis, and Promyalina, and the inarticulate brachiopod Lingularia. The exact nature and extent of their dominance remains uncertain. Here, a quantitative analysis of the dominance of these taxa within the fossil communities of Panthalassa and Tethys benthic realms is undertaken for the stages of the Early Triassic to examine temporal and regional changes in disaster-taxon dominance as recovery progresses. Community dominance and disaster-taxon abundance is markedly different between Panthalassic and Tethyan communities. In Panthalassa, community evenness is low in the Induan stage but increases significantly in the Smithian and Spathian. This is coincident with a significant decrease in the relative abundance and occurrence frequency of the disaster taxa, most notably of the low-oxygen-affinity taxa Claraia and Lingularia. While the disaster taxa are present in post-Induan assemblages, other taxa, including two articulate brachiopod genera, outrank the disaster taxa in relative abundance. In the Tethys, assemblages are generally more even than contemporaneous Panthalassic assemblages. We observe an averaged trend toward more even communities with fewer disaster taxa in both Panthalassic and Tethyan assemblages over time.

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