Sea level regulated tetrapod diversity dynamics through the Jurassic/Cretaceous interval

Nature Communications
Jonathan P TennantPaul Upchurch


Reconstructing deep time trends in biodiversity remains a central goal for palaeobiologists, but our understanding of the magnitude and tempo of extinctions and radiations is confounded by uneven sampling of the fossil record. In particular, the Jurassic/Cretaceous (J/K) boundary, 145 million years ago, remains poorly understood, despite an apparent minor extinction and the radiation of numerous important clades. Here we apply a rigorous subsampling approach to a comprehensive tetrapod fossil occurrence data set to assess the group's macroevolutionary dynamics through the J/K transition. Although much of the signal is exclusively European, almost every higher tetrapod group was affected by a substantial decline across the boundary, culminating in the extinction of several important clades and the ecological release and radiation of numerous modern tetrapod groups. Variation in eustatic sea level was the primary driver of these patterns, controlling biodiversity through availability of shallow marine environments and via allopatric speciation on land.


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