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Ichthyosaur evolution and extinction from ecospace perspective

Ben Creisler

A new paper:

Daniel G. Dick & Erin E. Maxwell (2015)
The evolution and extinction of the ichthyosaurs from the perspective
of quantitative ecospace modelling.
Biology Letters 2015 11 20150339
DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0339

The role of niche specialization and narrowing in the evolution and
extinction of the ichthyosaurs has been widely discussed in the
literature. However, previous studies have concentrated on a
qualitative discussion of these variables only. Here, we use the
recently developed approach of quantitative ecospace modelling to
provide a high-resolution quantitative examination of the changes in
dietary and ecological niche experienced by the ichthyosaurs
throughout their evolution in the Mesozoic. In particular, we
demonstrate that despite recent discoveries increasing our
understanding of taxonomic diversity among the ichthyosaurs in the
Cretaceous, when viewed from the perspective of ecospace modelling, a
clear trend of ecological contraction is visible as early as the
Middle Jurassic. We suggest that this ecospace redundancy, if carried
through to the Late Cretaceous, could have contributed to the
extinction of the ichthyosaurs. Additionally, our results suggest a
novel model to explain ecospace change, termed the ‘migration model’.