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Late Triassic durophagy and the origin of the Mesozoic marine revolution.

April 18, 2016

The evolutionary history of marine predator-prey interactions is a topic with important implications for a broad array of paleoecological questions. Has predation of marine organisms intensified through time? How have mass extinction events affected these interactions over longer time scales? What is the role of predator-prey interactions in species diversity and paleoecological structure of marine communities? The conditions that lead to complex marine ecosystems and the response of these systems to disruptive events in Earth's history are of direct importance to understanding and predicting the response of modern ocean ecosystems to changing conditions in the Common Era.

Characterizing even the most general trends of marine predation through the Phanerozoic has proven to be a complex problem due to the difficulties in quantifying predation among and between the wide range of taxa, morphological adaptations, behaviors, and modes of life involved. In Vermeij's (1987) classic book on escalation, he outlined an impressive array of anti-predation adaptations distributed among many different phyla that can be quantified and tracked through time including shell thickness and size, degree of ornamentation, and the ability to cement or swim. In addition to these morphologic features, adaptive radiations of various specialized predators and changing frequencies of predation traces could be correlated to the appearance of many shelly invertebrate taxa with anti-predator adaptations. Most of the unique adaptations in predators and shelly prey were present by the Jurassic Period, while frequencies of predatory drill holes rapidly increased during the Cretaceous, leading Vermeij (1977) to term this phenomenon the Mesozoic Marine Revolution (MMR).

Identifying an escalatory influence between durophagous predators and their shelly prey requires more than correlation of appearances and taxonomic radiations of predators and prey (Harper and Skelton 1993; Deitl and Kelley 2002)...

Lydia S. Tackett (2016)

Late Triassic durophagy and the origin of the Mesozoic marine revolution.

PALAIOS (advance online publication)

DOI: 10.2110/palo.2016.00


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