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Paleobiology. 1991;17(1):58-77.

A model of onshore-offshore change in faunal diversity.

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Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.
U Chicago, IL, Dept Geological Sciences


Onshore-offshore patterns of faunal change occurred at many taxonomic scales during the Paleozoic Era, ranging from replacement of the Cambrian evolutionary fauna by the Paleozoic fauna to the environmental expansion of many orders and classes. A simple mathematical model is constructed to investigate such change. The environmental gradient across the marine shelf-slope is treated as a linear array of discrete habitats, each of which holds a set number of species, as observed in the fossil record. During any interval of time, some portion of the species in each habitat becomes extinct by background processes, with rates of extinction varying among both clades and habitats, as also observed in the record. After extinction, species are replaced from within the habitat and from immediately adjacent habitats, with proportions dependent on surviving species. This model leads to the prediction that extinction-resistant clades will always diversify at the expense of extinction-prone clades. But if extinction intensity is highest in nearshore habitats, extinction-resistant clades will expand preferentially in the onshore direction, build up diversity there, and then diversify outward toward the offshore. Thus, onshore-offshore patterns of diversification may be the expectation for faunal change quite independently of whether or not clades originate onshore. When the model is parameterized for Paleozoic trilobites and brachiopods, numerical solutions exhibit both a pattern of faunal change and a time span for diversification similar to that seen in the fossil record. They also generate structure similar to that seen in global diversification, including logistic patterns of growth, declining origination but constant extinction within clades through time, and declining overall extinction across clades through time.

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