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Nat Commun. 2015 Aug 3;6:7848. doi: 10.1038/ncomms8848.

Climate-mediated diversification of turtles in the Cretaceous.

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Department of Earth Sciences, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, UK.
Museum of Paleontology, University of California, 1101 Valley Life Sciences Building, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3AN, UK.


Chelonians are ectothermic, with an extensive fossil record preserved in diverse palaeoenvironmental settings: consequently, they represent excellent models for investigating organismal response to long-term environmental change. We present the first Mesozoic chelonian taxic richness curve, subsampled to remove geological/collection biases, and demonstrate that their palaeolatitudinal distributions were climate mediated. At the Jurassic/Cretaceous transition, marine taxa exhibit minimal diversity change, whereas non-marine diversity increases. A Late Cretaceous peak in 'global' non-marine subsampled richness coincides with high palaeolatitude occurrences and the Cretaceous thermal maximum (CTM): however, this peak also records increased geographic sampling and is not recovered in continental-scale diversity patterns. Nevertheless, a model-detrended richness series (insensitive to geographic sampling) also recovers a Late Cretaceous peak, suggesting genuine geographic range expansion among non-marine turtles during the CTM. Increased Late Cretaceous diversity derives from intensive North American sampling, but subsampling indicates that Early Cretaceous European/Asian diversity may have exceeded that of Late Cretaceous North America.

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