The challenges to inferring the regulators of biodiversity in deep time

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
Thomas H G EzardMichael J Benton

Abstract

Attempts to infer the ecological drivers of macroevolution in deep time have long drawn inspiration from work on extant systems, but long-term evolutionary and geological changes complicate the simple extrapolation of such theory. Recent efforts to incorporate a more informed ecology into macroevolution have moved beyond the descriptive, seeking to isolate generating mechanisms and produce testable hypotheses of how groups of organisms usurp each other or coexist over vast timespans. This theme issue aims to exemplify this progress, providing a series of case studies of how novel modelling approaches are helping infer the regulators of biodiversity in deep time. In this Introduction, we explore the challenges of these new approaches. First, we discuss how our choices of taxonomic units have implications for the conclusions drawn. Second, we emphasize the need to embrace the interdependence of biotic and abiotic changes, because no living organism ignores its environment. Third, in the light of parts 1 and 2, we discuss the set of dynamic signatures that we might expect to observe in the fossil record. Finally, we ask whether these dynamics represent the most ecologically informative foci for research efforts aimed at inferring ...Continue Reading

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