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Comparative Study
, 275 (1630), 47-53

A Long-Term Association Between Global Temperature and Biodiversity, Origination and Extinction in the Fossil Record

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Comparative Study

A Long-Term Association Between Global Temperature and Biodiversity, Origination and Extinction in the Fossil Record

Peter J Mayhew et al. Proc Biol Sci.

Abstract

The past relationship between global temperature and levels of biological diversity is of increasing concern due to anthropogenic climate warming. However, no consistent link between these variables has yet been demonstrated. We analysed the fossil record for the last 520 Myr against estimates of low latitude sea surface temperature for the same period. We found that global biodiversity (the richness of families and genera) is related to temperature and has been relatively low during warm 'greenhouse' phases, while during the same phases extinction and origination rates of taxonomic lineages have been relatively high. These findings are consistent for terrestrial and marine environments and are robust to a number of alternative assumptions and potential biases. Our results provide the first clear evidence that global climate may explain substantial variation in the fossil record in a simple and consistent manner. Our findings may have implications for extinction and biodiversity change under future climate warming.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Taxonomic diversity against temperature. Time series of temperature and (a) standing diversity (number of families) using the maximum dating assumption and (b) standing diversity of boundary-crossing marine animal genera. Diversity and temperature were transformed, detrended and mean standardized. Closed circles and dashed lines represent temperature (°C) and open circles and continuous lines diversity. Large double open symbols represent periods of mass extinction, defined as the five largest positive extinction residuals (see text, figure 3). Curves are fitted using a 25 d.f. spline. Insets show the negative association between diversity and temperature residuals across the time series.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Origination rate against temperature. Time series of temperature and (a) the per-taxon rate of origination (Myr−1) for all families using the maximum dating assumption and (b) the estimated per capita rate, p, of origination (Myr−1) for marine animal genera. Rates and temperature were transformed, detrended and mean standardized. Closed circles and dashed lines represent temperature (°C) and open circles and continuous lines origination rates. Large double open symbols represent periods of mass extinction, defined as the five largest positive extinction residuals (see text, figure 3). Curves are fitted using a 25 d.f. spline. Insets show the positive association between origination rate and temperature residuals across the time series.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Extinction rate against temperature. Time series of temperature and (a) the per-taxon rate of extinction for families (Myr−1) using the maximum dating assumption and (b) the estimated per capita rate, q, of extinction (Myr−1) for marine animal genera. Rates and temperature were transformed, detrended and mean standardized. Closed circles and dashed lines represent temperature and open circles and continuous lines extinction rates. Large double open symbols represent periods of mass extinction, defined as the five largest positive extinction residuals (in order of decreasing age: end Ordovician; Late Devonian; end Permian; Early Triassic, end Cretaceous). Curves are fitted using a 25 d.f. spline. Insets show the positive association between extinction rate and temperature residuals across the time series.

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