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Did shell-crushing predators drive the evolution of ammonoid septal shape?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 April 2021

Erynn H. Johnson*
Affiliation:
Department of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania19104, U.S.A. E-mail: erynnj@upenn.edu, caja@seas.upenn.edu.
Briana M. DiMarco
Affiliation:
Department of Biology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, U.S.A. E-mail: bmd78@drexel.edu
David J. Peterman
Affiliation:
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio45435, U.S.A
Aja M. Carter
Affiliation:
Department of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania19104, U.S.A. E-mail: erynnj@upenn.edu, caja@seas.upenn.edu.
Warren D. Allmon
Affiliation:
Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, New York14850, U.S.A.; and Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York14850, U.S.A. E-mail: wda1@cornell.edu
*
*Corresponding author.

Abstract

For centuries, paleontologists have sought functional explanations for the uniquely complex internal walls (septa) of ammonoids, extinct shelled cephalopods. Ammonoid septa developed increasingly complex fractal margins, unlike any modern shell morphologies, throughout more than 300 million years of evolution. Some have suggested these morphologies provided increased resistance to shell-crushing predators. We perform the first physical compression experiments on model ammonoid septa using controlled, theoretical morphologies generated by computer-aided design and 3D printing. These biomechanical experiments reveal that increasing complexity of septal margins does not increase compression resistance. Our results raise the question of whether the evolution of septal shape may be tied closely to the placement of the siphuncle foramen (anatomic septal hole). Our tests demonstrate weakness in the centers of uniformly thick septa, supporting work suggesting reinforcement by shell thickening at the center of septa. These experiments highlight the importance of 3D reconstruction using idealized theoretical morphologies that permit the testing of long-held hypotheses of functional evolutionary drivers by recreating extinct morphologies once rendered physically untestable by the fossil record.

Type
Articles
Information
Paleobiology , Volume 47 , Issue 4 , November 2021 , pp. 666 - 679
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Paleontological Society

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Footnotes

Present addresses: Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, New York 14850, U.S.A.

Electrical and Systems Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, U.S.A.

§

Present address: Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, U.S.A. E-mail: David.Peterman@utah.edu

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