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Crocodylian evolution and climate (free pdf)
A new paper in open access:
Philip D. Mannion, Roger B. J. Benson, Matthew T. Carrano, Jonathan P.
Tennant, Jack Judd & Richard J. Butler (2015)
Climate constrains the evolutionary history and biodiversity of crocodylians.
Nature Communications 6, Article number: 8438
The fossil record of crocodylians and their relatives (pseudosuchians)
reveals a rich evolutionary history, prompting questions about causes
of long-term decline to their present-day low biodiversity. We analyse
climatic drivers of subsampled pseudosuchian biodiversity over their
250 million year history, using a comprehensive new data set.
Biodiversity and environmental changes correlate strongly, with
long-term decline of terrestrial taxa driven by decreasing
temperatures in northern temperate regions, and biodiversity decreases
at lower latitudes matching patterns of increasing aridification.
However, there is no relationship between temperature and biodiversity
for marine pseudosuchians, with sea-level change and post-extinction
opportunism demonstrated to be more important drivers. A 'modern-type'
atitudinal biodiversity gradient might have existed throughout
pseudosuchian history, and range expansion towards the poles occurred
during warm intervals. Although their fossil record suggests that
current global warming might promote long-term increases in
crocodylian biodiversity and geographic range, the 'balancing forces'
of anthropogenic environmental degradation complicate future