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Regional and environmental variation in escalatory ecological trends during the Jurassic: a western Tethys hotspot for escalation?

  • Pedro M. Monarrez (a1), Martin Aberhan (a2) and Steven M. Holland (a1)

Understanding the drivers of macroevolutionary trends through the Phanerozoic has been a central question in paleobiology. Increasingly important is understanding the regional and environmental variation of macroevolutionary patterns and how they are reflected at the global scale. Here we test the role of biotic interactions on regional ecological patterns during the Mesozoic marine revolution. We test for escalatory trends in Jurassic marine benthic macroinvertebrate ecosystems using occurrence data from the Paleobiology Database parsed by region and environment. The escalation hypothesis posits that taxonomic groups that could adapt to intense predation and bioturbation proliferated, whereas groups unable to adapt were reduced in diversity and abundance or driven to extinction. We tested this hypothesis in five regions during Jurassic stages and among four depositional environments in Europe. Few escalatory trends were detected, although at least one escalatory trend was observed in every region, with the greatest number and strongest trends observed in Europe. These trends include increases in shallow infauna and cementing epifauna and occurrences of facultatively mobile invertebrates and decreases in pedunculate, free-lying, and sessile epifauna. Within Europe, escalatory trends occur in shallow-water environments but also in deeper-water environments, where they are predicted not to occur. When regional trends are aggregated, trends in Europe drive the global signal. The results of this study suggest that while evidence of escalation is rare globally, it is plausible that escalation drove macroevolutionary patterns in Europe. Furthermore, these results underline the need to dissect global fossil data at the regional scale to understand global macroevolutionary dynamics.

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