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. 2010 Aug 23;6(4):544-7.
doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.1024. Epub 2010 Jan 27.

Links Between Global Taxonomic Diversity, Ecological Diversity and the Expansion of Vertebrates on Land

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Free PMC article

Links Between Global Taxonomic Diversity, Ecological Diversity and the Expansion of Vertebrates on Land

Sarda Sahney et al. Biol Lett. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Tetrapod biodiversity today is great; over the past 400 Myr since vertebrates moved onto land, global tetrapod diversity has risen exponentially, punctuated by losses during major extinctions. There are links between the total global diversity of tetrapods and the diversity of their ecological roles, yet no one fully understands the interplay of these two aspects of biodiversity and a numerical analysis of this relationship has not so far been undertaken. Here we show that the global taxonomic and ecological diversity of tetrapods are closely linked. Throughout geological time, patterns of global diversity of tetrapod families show 97 per cent correlation with ecological modes. Global taxonomic and ecological diversity of this group correlates closely with the dominant classes of tetrapods (amphibians in the Palaeozoic, reptiles in the Mesozoic, birds and mammals in the Cenozoic). These groups have driven ecological diversity by expansion and contraction of occupied ecospace, rather than by direct competition within existing ecospace and each group has used ecospace at a greater rate than their predecessors.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Global taxonomic diversity of monotypic tetrapod families and ecological diversity of modes used by tetrapod families. These two measures of diversity correlate, with a Spearman's rank correlation coefficient of ρ = 0.9727, p < 0.001 and a linear regression of y = 0.2518x. Mass extinctions are formula image end-Permian extinction, formula image end-Triassic extinction and formula image end-Cretaceous extinction (solid line, families; dashed line, modes).
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Ecological role of tetrapods through time. (a) The average number of tetrapod families occupying a single mode and the global taxonomic diversity of the different tetrapod classes. (b) Rate of expansion/contraction of mode utilization and the general ‘normal’ range of this rate (shaded area) with the exception of troughs and peaks at major extinction events. Mass extinctions are formula image end-Permian extinction, formula image end-Triassic extinction, formula image end-Cretaceous extinction and formula image Grande Coupure (solid line, families per mode; long-dashed black line, mammals; short-dashed black line, birds; dashed grey line, reptiles; dotted grey line, amphibians).

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