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TitleEarly bursts of diversification defined the faunal colonization of land
AuthorMinter, N J; Buatois, L A; Mangano, M G; Davies, N S; Gibling, M R; MacNaughton, R B; Labandeira, C
SourceProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 1, no. 175, 2017.,
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20160255
PublisherNational Academy of Sciences (USA)
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf
Subjectsenvironmental geology; paleontology; faunal studies; faunas; faunal distribution; faunal assemblages; ecology; paleoecology; trace fossils; fossils; ecosystems; ichnology; ichnofacies; ichnofossils; Carboniferous; Paleozoic
Illustrationsschematic diagrams; graphs; bar graphs
ProgramMackenzie Corridor, Shield to Selwyn, GEM2: Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals
AbstractThe colonization of land was one of the major events in Earth history, leading to the expansion of life and laying the foundations for the modern biosphere. We examined trace fossils, the record of the activities of past life, to understand how animals diversify both behaviourally and ecologically when colonizing new habitats. The faunal invasion of land was preceded by excursions of benthic animals into very shallow, marginal marine environments during the latest Ediacaran period and culminated in widespread colonization of non-marine niches by the end of the Carboniferous period. Trace fossil evidence for the colonization of new environments shows repeated early burst patterns of maximal ichnodisparity (the degree of difference among basic trace fossil architectural designs), ecospace occupation and level of ecosystem engineering prior to maximal ichnodiversity. Similarities across different environments in the types of behavioural programme employed (as represented by different trace fossils), modes of life present and the ways in which animals impacted their environments suggest constraints on behavioural and ecological diversification. The early burst patterns have the hallmark of novelty events. The underlying drivers of these events were probably the extrinsic limitation of available ecospace and intrinsic controls of genomic and developmental plasticity that enabled trace-maker morphological and behavioural novelty.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
Evidence from trace fossils (fossilized evidence of animal behaviour; e.g., tracks, trails, burrows) permits us to reconstruct the history of early colonization of land by animals. This occurred roughly during the time between 540 million and 440 million years ago. It appears that ecospace in each new environment was filled rapidly following initial colonization, with diversification of behaviours in the environment following later.