The biodiversity of marine species since the Cambrian shows significant differences before and after the Permian extinction event. In his commentary, Kiessling writes: â€œThe big surprise in their analysis is a major difference between Paleozoic â€¦ and younger communities. In older assemblages, complex and simple distributions are about equally common, but complexly structured assemblages are substantially more common in more recent times. With so many paleobiologists looking at local, regional, and global diversity patterns through time, how could this striking pattern have escaped our attention for so long?â€
Maybe because "evolution" rather than "ecology" has been the guiding word? It is increasingly apparent that environmental factors have been a major driver in understanding the pattern of fossils in different strata. The focus needs to shift from viewing the past through â€œevolutionaryâ€ spectacles.
Discussion within the ID community has drawn a parallel between the Cambrian explosion and the post-Permian radiations. In the latter, huge opportunities were present for the evolution of new phyla/body plans, yet what we see are not new phyla but radiations and complex ecosystems. Why the difference with the Cambrian Explosion? Is this yet another case of Darwinism failing to correlate well with the evidence?
Abundance Distributions Imply Elevated Complexity of Post-Paleozoic Marine Ecosystems
Peter J. Wagner, Matthew A. Kosnik, and Scott Lidgard
Science 314, 24 November 2006: 1289-1292.
Abstract: Likelihood analyses of 1176 fossil assemblages of marine organisms from Phanerozoic (i.e., Cambrian to Recent) assemblages indicate a shift in typical relative-abundance distributions after the Paleozoic. Ecological theory associated with these abundance distributions implies that complex ecosystems are far more common among Meso-Cenozoic assemblages than among the Paleozoic assemblages that preceded them. This transition coincides not with any major change in the way fossils are preserved or collected but with a shift from communities dominated by sessile epifaunal suspension feeders to communities with elevated diversities of mobile and infaunal taxa. This suggests that the end-Permian extinction permanently altered prevailing marine ecosystem structure and precipitated high levels of ecological complexity and alpha diversity in the Meso-Cenozoic.
See also: Kiessling, K. Life's Complexity Cast in Stone, Science 314, 24 November 2006: 1254-1255.
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