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Plant group survival after mass extinctions (free pdf)

Ben Creisler

A recent paper that may be of interest:

Daniele Silvestro, Borja Cascales-Miñana, Christine D. Bacon and
Alexandre Antonelli (2015)
Revisiting the origin and diversification of vascular plants through a
comprehensive Bayesian analysis of the fossil record.
New Phytologist (advance online publication)
doi: 10.1111/nph.13247

Free pdf:


Plants have a long evolutionary history, during which mass extinction
events dramatically affected Earth's ecosystems and its biodiversity.
The fossil record can shed light on the diversification dynamics of
plant life and reveal how changes in the origination–extinction
balance have contributed to shaping the current flora.

We use a novel Bayesian approach to estimate origination and
extinction rates in plants throughout their history. We focus on the
effect of the ‘Big Five’ mass extinctions and on estimating the timing
of origin of vascular plants, seed plants and angiosperms.

Our analyses show that plant diversification is characterized by
several shifts in origination and extinction rates, often matching the
most important geological boundaries. The estimated origin of major
plant clades predates the oldest macrofossils when considering the
uncertainties associated with the fossil record and the preservation

Our findings show that the commonly recognized mass extinctions have
affected each plant group differently and that phases of high
extinction often coincided with major floral turnovers. For instance,
after the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary we infer negligible shifts in
diversification of nonflowering seed plants, but find significantly
decreased extinction in spore-bearing plants and increased origination
rates in angiosperms, contributing to their current ecological and
evolutionary dominance.