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How macroecology affects macroevolution: the interplay between extinction intensity and trait-dependent extinction in brachiopods

By Peter D. Smits

Posted 17 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/523811

Selection is the force behind differences in fitness, with extinction being the most extreme example of selection. Modern experiments and observations have shown that average fitness and selection strength can vary over time and space. This begs the question: as average fitness increases, does selection strength increase or decrease? The fossil record illustrates how extinction rates have varied through time, with periods of both rapid and slow species turnover. Using Paleozoic brachiopods as a study system, I developed a model to understand how the average taxon duration (i.e. fitness) varies over time, to estimate trait-based differences in taxon durations (i.e. selection), and to measure the amount of correlation between taxon fitness and selection. I find evidence for when extinction intensity increases, selection strength on geographic range also increases. I also find strong evidence for a non-linear relationship between environmental preference for epicontinental versus open-ocean environments and expected taxon duration, where taxa with intermediate preferences are expected to have greater durations than environmental specialists. Finally, I find that taxa which appear more frequently in epicontinental environments will have a greater expected duration than those taxa which prefer open-ocean environments. My analysis supports the conclusions that as extinction intensity increases and average fitness decreases, as happens during a mass extinction, the trait-associated differences in fitness would increase. In contrast, during periods of low extinction intensity when fitness is greater than average, my model predicts that selection associated with geographic range and environmental preference would decrease and be less than average.

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