Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Abstracts (first author)
Decoupling of taxonomic diversity and morphological disparity during decline of the Cambrian trilobite family Pterocephaliidae
Though discordance between taxonomic diversity and morphological disparity is common, little is known about the underlying dynamics that drive this decoupling. Early in the history of the Cambrian trilobite family Pterocephaliidae, there was an increase in taxonomic diversity and morphological diversity. As taxonomic diversity declined in the later history of the clade, range of variation stayed high, and disparity continued to increase. However, per-branch rates of morphological evolution estimated from a recent phylogeny decreased with time. Neither within-trait nor within-species variation increased or decreased, suggesting that the declining rates of morphological evolution were more likely related to ecological opportunity or niche partitioning rather than increasing intrinsic constraints. This is further supported by evidence for increased biofacies associations throughout the time period. Thus the high disparity seen at low taxonomic diversity late in the history of this clade was due to extinction—either random or targeting mean forms—rather than increased rates of morphological evolution. Furthermore, patterns seen at higher taxonomic scales do not necessarily reflect patterns at lower levels or within an explicit phylogenetic framework. These results emphasize the importance of considering both extinction and phylogenetic context when comparing different types of diversity and seeking explanations for conflicting patterns. This pattern also provides a scenario that could account for instances of low taxonomic diversity but high morphological disparity in modern groups.